Always Was, Always Will Be: Celebrating NAIDOC Week at work

by Nov 6, 2020

NAIDOC (National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee) Week has been a time to celebrate and commemorate the history, culture, and achievements of Indigenous people since the 1920s. This year’s theme, ‘Always Was, Always Will Be’, acknowledges the fact that Australia’s Indigenous peoples are part of the oldest continuing culture in the world, and have been the custodians and carers of this country for over 65,000 years.

While there are countless ways to celebrate NAIDOC Week in your workplace, these celebrations may look different to previous years’ with many of us still working from home. Here are just 5 ways you can engage with NAIDOC Week at work.


Add the land on which you’re working to your email signature

Adding an acknowledgement of country to your email signature is a simple way to recognise and pay respect to the traditional owners of the land on which you’re working. It may require a little research to find the appropriate names of the people and nation of your area, but this small act could start a conversation or create a learning opportunity for people both inside and outside your workplace.

Reconciliation Australia has created a template for adding an acknowledgement of country to your email signature.

(Organisation name) acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land on which we work, the (people) of the (nation). We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

So, for example, here at UTS we would say:

UTS acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land on which we work, the Gadigal People of the Eora Nation and the Boorooberongal People of the Dharug Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

If you’re worried about making claims on behalf of your organisation, talk to your HR representative or simply change the first word to ‘I’.


Encourage your colleagues to attend NAIDOC Week events

There are countless events from local communities taking place across the country this year. One easy way to spread the word about NAIDOC Week in your workplace is to encourage your colleagues to attend one of these events, or even create your own! If you’re working from home, or not comfortable attending in person events, why not check out NAIDOC in the City? It’s a free online livestreamed event from the City of Sydney that will take attendees through a celebration of Indigenous music and dance, while promoting meaningful discussion.  


Inspire meaningful change

In order to have a truly welcoming workplace, it’s important we acknowledge the barriers to inclusion for Indigenous people in the workplace, and work towards improving them. One of the ways you can encourage change is by supporting Reconciliation Action Plans (RAPs) and motivating your workplace to create one.

According to Reconciliation Australia:

“Each of the four RAP types (Reflect, Innovate, Stretch, Elevate) set out the minimum elements required from your organisation to build strong relationships, respect and opportunities within your organisation and community.” [x]


Educate yourself about Indigenous people excelling in their careers

A key feature of NAIDOC Week is celebrating the achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our community. Even just here at UTS, there are a number of incredible Indigenous staff and alumni standing out in their fields.

Read more about the successes of just 3 UTS staff below.

  • Wiradjuri man Professor Michael McDaniel is UTS’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Leadership and Engagement). Last year he was awarded the prestigious NAIDOC Scholar of the Year Award for “exceptional educators who have made a difference to the life of students or communities.” [x]
  • Wiradjuri woman Aunty Glendra Stubbs has been working with survivors of trauma in her career, providing support, advice, and assistance for 40 years. She is now UTS’s Elder-in-Residence. In this role, she holds a significant cultural and knowledge-sharing role, with the goal of mentoring Indigenous students and increasing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student retention and success. [x]
  • Earlier this year, Eualeyai/Kamillaroi woman Professor Larissa Behrendt was recognised for distinguished service to Indigenous education and research, the law and the visual and performing arts with the immense honour of an AO. Professor Behrendt is Director of Research and Academic Programs at Jumbunna Institute here at UTS. [x]


Keep inclusive language at front of mind

It’s not uncommon for workplace documents or protocols to be a bit outdated, so it’s up to all of us to keep an eye out for inappropriate or culturally insensitive language in regards to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

NAIDOC Week is a great opportunity to ensure your workplace’s language protocols are correct and up to date. There are a number of resources available that are worth sharing with your colleagues:

If your workplace doesn’t already include a Welcome to Country or Acknowledgement of Country at the beginning of their meetings and events (including online events!), now might be a good time to establish this as protocol. This is an easy way to recognise and pay respect to First Nations people within and outside of your organisation.


Take this NAIDOC Week as an opportunity to celebrate, organise, and educate in your workplace. Always was, always will be Indigenous Australian land.


Featured image courtesy of Unsplash.

Lily Cameron

Lily Cameron

Communications Assistant

Lily Cameron is a writer and editor based in Sydney. She is a UTS Communications (Creative Writing) graduate, and current Communications Assistant at UTS Careers. She is passionate about telling stories, both hers and others’, and the way digital and social media is changing the literary landscape. Her writing has appeared in Voiceworks, The Brag, and elsewhere.