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NAIDOC Week 2022

About Australia

Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade – Jan Adams AO PSM

National Museum of Australia

Thank you, Michelle, for the introduction and thank you to Ngambri-Ngunnawal Custodian, Paul Girrawah House, for your gracious Welcome to Country.

I too would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we are gathered this evening, the land of the Ngambri Ngunnawal people and pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging.

I acknowledge and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples here this evening, including my Indigenous colleagues from DFAT, some of whom are here tonight.

I also acknowledge Dean of the Diplomatic Corps Ambassador Kraishan, Ambassador of Jordan, other Excellencies – I've met many this evening, don't expect me to remember all of the names after the first blitz. It was a great opportunity for me. I am delighted that you can join us for a special evening to mark NAIDOC Week 2022.

I am extraordinarily pleased that my first public event as Secretary of the Department is part of NAIDOC Week – a celebration of Australia's Indigenous cultures, which have been connected to this continent for over 65,000 years. 

Australia is a vast land, as you know if you've been travelling, criss-crossed by ancient songlines, trade routes and diverse Indigenous cultures – from the Torres Strait Island peoples in the north, to the Palawa peoples in Tasmania, and the Yawuru people in Broome.

NAIDOC Week has evolved over the past 100 years. 

Its origins were actually in the civil rights movements by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the 1920s and the formation of the first National Aborigines Day Observance Committee – NAIDOC. Most of us now just say 'NAIDOC' as if it's a fully formed word. It's interesting to remember the origin.  In the late 1950s it became observed in the second week of July as a time to celebrate Australia's Indigenous peoples. 

NAIDOC Week now is a time to reflect on the past, the present and our shared future.

The national theme for NAIDOC Week this year is Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up! I think it's great.

This year's theme both acknowledges those who have been champions of change for generations, and calls for continued momentum to secure collaborative institutional and structural reforms for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Indigenous Australians continue to rise above challenges and adversity to sustain their identity, culture, and way of life.

That is why this year's NAIDOC theme has such resonance.

The NAIDOC theme should act as a call-to-action for Australia to listen deeply and act bravely.

This was a theme Adjunct Professor Janine Mohamed – CEO of the Lowitja Foundation – explored so eloquently at our opening NAIDOC week activity at DFAT.

Professor Mohamed spoke to dadirri, the cultural practice of deep listening.

Deep listening occurs when there are respectful, reciprocal relationships, built on trust. And as Professor Mohamed said, we will only ever travel at the speed of trust.


I would like to take this opportunity to share with you some of the important work the Australian Government and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is doing to demonstrate our commitment to Indigenous Australians.

Prime Minister Albanese's NAIDOC Week message highlighted the creation of a First Nations Voice to Parliament as an urgent and pressing need, consistent with the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

The Prime Minister emphasised the Government's determination to work in genuine partnership with First Nations People to achieve better outcomes in health, justice, housing, employment and environmental and cultural protection.

This year, via my department, Australia will establish an Ambassador for First Nations Peoples supported by an Office for First Nations Engagement.

The Ambassador and new office is intended to contribute First Nations perspectives in Australian foreign policy, to contribute to our engagements in the Indo-Pacific region, to advance Indigenous rights and interests within the UN and other international forums and to continue to build our own First Nations capability and advocacy.

We are proud to be working in partnership with advice and support from our Indigenous Employees Network including to:

enhance our Indigenous recruitment and retention strategies, that's really important; and

support Indigenous businesses through a strong Indigenous procurement programs.

This department now has 129 employees who identify as Indigenous, 30 of whom are currently representing Australia at overseas posts. 

Of course, having a workforce that can draw on diverse lived experiences to address complex global challenges demonstrates the depth, complexity, and diversity of this, our country.

It's a point that Foreign Minister Penny Wong has been making in her early visits through South East Asia and Pacific Island countries.

As the Prime Ministers NAIDOC Week message stated - this is a chance for ALL Australians, and our international guests, to embrace truth-telling, learn more about First Nations cultures and histories, and to honour the vast and vital contributions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, past and present.


And now to tonight's program.

Australia is home to the world's oldest continuing culture – culture which is a vital part of modern Australia's soft power and our international face.

In partnership with the National Museum of Australia, I am thrilled you will all have the chance to experience CONNECTION – a digital, immersive exhibition that takes you on a journey through sky, land and water Country. I can't wait to see it.

This world premiere season showcases the work of over seventy Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and musicians.

Before I hand over to Mathew and our Museum colleagues, I want to particularly acknowledge Dr Margo Neale, Senior Indigenous Curator and Principal Adviser to the Museum.

Margo has just returned from Berlin where she opened the blockbuster show Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters at the Humbolt Forum. This landmark exhibition recently completed its international premiere at The Box in Plymouth and after Berlin will travel to Paris' Musee du Quai Branly, both supported by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Margo – on behalf of my team and staff at our overseas posts I acknowledge and thank you for your generous guidance, expertise, and collaborative approach.

We all look forward to continuing the partnership.

Thank you for listening everybody.

And now, please welcome Dr Mathew Trinca AM, Director of the National Museum of Australia and Dr Margo Ngawa Neale, Senior Indigenous Curator and Principal Adviser to the Museum Director.

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