NAIDOC Week activity ideas for your school

An Indigenous Elder sitting in the outback with the Aboriginal flag in the back ground

Published: May 9th, 2023

This year, NAIDOC Week celebrations will be held from July 2 to July 9. Celebrating and recognising the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, NAIDOC Week is an opportunity for you and your students to learn more about First Nations cultures and communities.

Below, we list five fun and engaging NAIDOC Week activity ideas to help you support your local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

When planning NAIDOC activities and learning experiences, we recommend always working in consultation with your local Aboriginal communities. If your school doesn’t have any connections with local Indigenous communities, try reaching out to your council or state or territory government body, who may be able to connect you with Indigenous groups in your area.

What is NAIDOC Week?

NAIDOC (National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee) Week is a celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and communities. Occurring in the first week of July each year, all Australians are welcome to take part in the celebrations, with events held nationwide.

Each year, NAIDOC Week has a special theme, and this year’s theme is For Our Elders. The theme recognises the important role that Elders have played and continue to play in Indigenous communities and families.

How can we celebrate NAIDOC Week?

Looking for ways to celebrate NAIDOC Week at your school? Here are five fun and educational NAIDOC activities for schools.

1. Study a famous Indigenous Australian

NAIDOC Week is a great time to explore the legacies of famous and influential Indigenous Australians. From artists to activists, there are many Indigenous Australians worth celebrating with your class.

To get you started, here are a few ideas:

●     Musician and activist Archie Roach. Archie was a famous Indigenous singer and songwriter, who also campaigned for the rights of First Nations people. Part of the Stolen Generation, Archie Roach gave back to First Nations communities through initiatives like the Archie Roach Foundation, which provides young Indigenous people with opportunities in the arts.

●     Sporting hero Cathy Freeman. Cathy was the first Indigenous woman to compete for Australia at the Olympic games, and her gold-winning 400 metre dash at the 2000 Sydney Olympic games is one of the greatest moments in Australian sporting history.  Since retiring from sport, Cathy has dedicated her time to community services and charities, such as the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation.

●     Land rights campaigner Eddie Koiki Mabo. Eddie is credited with being the driving force behind the landmark 1992 High Court of Australia ruling, which overturned the legal doctrine of terra nullius, thereby recognising Indigenous land rights.

Choose a person to learn about as a class, or ask your students to discover, research and present a study on a famous person of their choice. Students can research Indigenous history online or find books and other resources about Aboriginal and Torres Strait peoples to help them with their project. Allow students to use their research to present their projects on an interactive display. Promethean’s ActivPanel means that students can display their findings, including any photos, videos and even draw on the screen, allowing for an engaging and interactive class with increased student participation. 

2. Research the traditional custodians of your area

Wherever you are in Australia, you’re on the lands of Australia’s First Nations people. Identifying and researching the traditional custodians of the land you and your students are on is a rewarding experience, and a great way to celebrate NAIDOC Week.

As a class, in small groups, or individually, ask your students to research the traditional custodians of the land your school or students’ homes sit on. To get started, suggest your students jump online and visit:

●     Their local council website, which may include an acknowledgement of the local traditional custodians

●     The website of your state or territory government, which may include information about the area’s traditional custodians, as well as information about any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander consultative bodies

●     The websites of any land councils or consultative bodies representing your local Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander communities

●     The Prescribed Bodies Corporate website, which provides details about native title groups

3. Engage with your local Indigenous community

After learning more about the traditional custodians of the land you’re on, you could choose to take the next step in engaging with the Aboriginal communities in your area by inviting an Elder to speak at your school. They may wish to speak about the history and culture of the area, or share Dreamtime stories about the creation of the world. This is not only a great way to celebrate NAIDOC week, but also ties into this year’s theme – For Our Elders.

Another way to engage with your local Aboriginal community is by inviting an Indigenous group to perform a traditional ceremony, such as a smoking ceremony. A smoking ceremony involves burning various native plants to produce smoke. The smoke, which has cleansing properties, wards off bad spirits from the people and the land and protects visitors. A smoking ceremony also usually involves a Welcome to Country, a speech delivered to show respect and acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land, past, present and future.

If your school does not have any connections with the local Aboriginal community, a good place to start is by contacting your local council or state or territory government. They may be able to connect you with local Aboriginal land councils or consultative groups, who in turn can connect you with local Elders.

4. Make your own Indigenous trivia quiz

Test your student’s knowledge of Indigenous people, culture and history with a NAIDOC-themed trivia quiz. Trivia quizzes are a fun and interactive way to get students involved in NAIDOC Week.

Apps like Kahoot! and Socrative are great for creating fun and engaging quizzes and trivia games. Build your quiz using one of these apps, then present the quiz to your class on an interactive display. Give your students a few days to read up on Aboriginal culture and history before the quiz. This will give them the best chance of getting some answers right, while also building up some excitement for game-day.

Here are some example questions to get you started on creating your trivia quiz:

  1. How long have Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people lived in Australia?, Answer: At least 60,000 years
  2. Which Yothu Yindi track was ARIA’s 1992 Song of the Year?, Answer: Treaty
  3. In which event did Cathy Freeman win gold at the Sydney 2000 Olympic games? Answer: 400m dash
  4. Which Aboriginal game reputedly inspired Australian rules football?, Answer: Marn-grook
  5. Who was the first Indigenous person to be named Australian of the Year? Answer: Boxer Lionel Rose (in 1968)

5. Study Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts, crafts, dance and music

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art has a deep and rich history. Thought to be the oldest continuous art tradition in the world, Aboriginal art dates back as far as 60,000 years. Aboriginal art has traditionally been used for narrative purposes, such as telling stories about Dreamtime, and includes many different mediums, including painting, carving, sculpting, engraving, and weaving. Traditional and ceremonial dance and music are also an important part of Aboriginal culture.

To celebrate NAIDOC week, why not invite local Indigenous artists, dancers or musicians to your school to introduce your students to this rich and fascinating part of Aboriginal culture?

Some ideas for studying Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts and crafts, or getting your students involved with NAIDOC week art activities include:

●     Studying ancient artworks and then recreating patterns and symbols using natural materials such as bark, wood, rock, sand, and leaves

●     Listening to Dreamtime stories and then interpreting them into drawings, paintings, or sculptures

●     Studying the work of Aboriginal artists, such as Albert Namatjira or Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri

●     Creating a NAIDOC art competition and asking students to submit a piece of art in response to this year’s theme – For Our Elders 

●     Asking students to colour and decorate a NAIDOC colouring in poster. NAIDOC releases a new colouring in poster each year, free to download and print

How to use technology to make the most of NAIDOC Week

From building quizzes, to researching Indigenous people, history and culture, to making connections with local Indigenous groups, technology can make celebrating NAIDOC week easier and more engaging. Even arts and crafts can be digitised! If you’d like to learn more about Promethean’s interactive displays or teaching software, get in touch to request a demo.

And for more NAIDOC Week activity ideas (and to share your event), visit the NAIDOC website, which also includes educational resources to support you in building your curriculum.

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Edtech teaching resources for NAIDOC Week

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