Getting ready for a big July: NAIDOC and Black History Month

Celebrating July with Coming of the Light, NAIDOC Week, Black History Month

July is a big month. We have three big celebrations coming up –

  1. Black History Month (1st – 31st)
  2. Coming of the Light are coming up (1st of July)
  3. NAIDOC Week (7th – 14th)

If you’re new to teaching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives and knowledges, you could be forgiven for feeling overwhelmed. There are so many things – ideas, practices, knowledges – that you “need” to know. How do you create a meaningful learning experience that is respectful of the different celebrations in July? Where do you start?

Step 1: WHAT?

The first thing to do is to learn about what each event means, how it started and where it’s celebrated.

Black History Month is a truly grassroots event that started in 2008. Designed to challenge stereotypes, celebrate success as well as educate others about the little known history of Australia, Black History Month for (ABHM/BHM) is being celebrated all over Australia. As a very recent event, many of the messages of Black History Month are being spread through social media networks. Events might include, film nights, performances, sharing of new works, panels and forums.

Coming of the Light is a Torres Strait Islander celebration that is celebrated in the Torres Strait Islands and in Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia. It is a significant event in The event recognises the arrival of the London Missionary Society (LMS) to the Torres Strait Islands in the 1840s.  The LMS arrived in the Torres Strait with the invention of converting people to Christianity. Many Torres Strait Islander families and communities, are of the Christian faith and will celebrate this event with church services, feasting and performances.

NAIDOC Week is a week of celebrations that started in 1955 on the first Sunday in July as “Aborigines Day”. NAIDOC (the National Aboriginal and Islanders Day Observance Committee) became a week of celebrations later in the century. The event is recognised and celebrated across the continent. Like Black History Month, events will include Family Fun Days, film nights, official breakfasts, flag raising, performances.

Step 2: WHERE?

Let’s locate resources that you can use in the classroom. You may need to venture forth into social media spaces to get great up-to-date materials. We recommend these

  • Black History Month Facebook Page – has up-to-date Great Moments in Blakistory factsheets, posters and other resources. (There is also a Twitter account @BlakHistoryAust)
  • AIATSIS NAIDOC posters collection  – the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies are a research and archiving institution based in Canberra. They have been committed to collecting as many NAIDOC posters and NAIDOC memorabilia as possible. They have made their collection available in digital format. Students can access the posters from 1972 to 2012
  • National NAIDOC Committee – the National NAIDOC Committee are responsible for setting the national THEME for each NAIDOC week, as well as organising the Annual NAIDOC Ball and Awards. They also administer the annual NAIDOC Poster competition. Individuals and schools can get copies of the NAIDOC poster each year, as well as access historical information, calendars and other resources.

The other important place to locate resources are from within your community. Find out what activities might be happening. The National NAIDOC website has a calendar that individual communities can list their events on. Many community organisations will be well underway in their planning of their events for July. Look around the community and you may be surprised by what you find.

Step 3: HOW?

Now to plan your school activities. The types of activities that you can undertake will depend greatly on your budget, the size of your school and the time you have to prepare. The other thing to remember is that Australian school holidays fall at different times in July, so you’re not going to have students for the entire month. You may want to plan a few activities in the last week in July, in partnership with other classes. Rotational activities work well in these instances.

One example of an inexpensive activity is: As part of your July library display, hold a quiz competition (you’ll need a prize) using the Great Moments in Blakistory fact sheets.

  1. Find and print out as many of the Fact Sheets as you can
  2. Put them into a folder – a separate plastic pocket for each sheet
  3. Using the sheets, generate some quiz questions.  For example From Fact sheet 29 / 2012: Who was the young Indigenous whaling activist who convened a youth forum at the International Whaling Commission in 2009?
  4. On a PowerPoint slide, write up the questions – one question per slide. And have it playing in a loop in your July library display
  5. Invite students to participate in the quiz and the person with the most correct answers that is drawn out of the box, wins a prize.

This is a simple, fun and educational activity that students and their families can participate in.

Embedding perspectives properly is something that can only happen across the course of a teaching year. Not only is it part of the curriculum, it can be enjoyable and informative and can help you with delivering better lessons The above activities are ideas for July celebrations that you can explore in a more in depth in Key Learning Areas such as history, English, Indigenous Studies, Geography.