NAIDOC Week celebrations are held across Australia each July to acknowledge the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The week is a great opportunity to participate in a range of activities and to support your local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.

For the UNSW Art & Design community NAIDOC Week is an opportunity to recognise the First Peoples of Australia and to acknowledge the essential contibution of Indigenous Australians make to all aspects of our national life and society from politics, sports, the environment, community, and of course, art. This week Art & Design is hosting its annual Winter School – an educational program that brings Indigenous youth from every State and Territory to Sydney to take part in creative university courses in the areas of art, design and media. 

This year, the program welcomes 11 young people at years 11 and 12 level who have all come to take part in a program titled, “World’s Greatest”. They’ll undertake 3 days of intense learning with experts in the areas of printmaking (with renowned printmaker, Michael Kempson), animation (with award-winning animator, Steve Weymouth), and sculpture (with high-profile early-career artist Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran).

After three days of studying and making across these disciplines, the results of each young Indigenous artist’s endeavours will be displayed in a professional exhibition presented in Art & Design's ADspace.

Tess Allas, Director of Indigenous Programs at UNSW Art & Design, says the goal of the Winter School is to provide “a taste of university life and a demystification of university itself.  We want all participants to see that this is something that they can achieve - getting into university and getting a degree – and every year this has proven to be the case.  Every year since the Winter School started, we’ve had people enrol in degrees at UNSW Art & Design.”   

Winter School at UNSW Art & Design is part of a nationwide program of events that culminates with the National NAIDOC Awards evening wherein the outstanding contributions that Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander Australians have made in the wide community are recognised. 

The ten categories of award include of Artist of the Year (recipients have included Tony Briggs, the award-winning script writer of The Sapphires; Stephen Page, the artistic director of Bangarra Dance Theatre; and Kerrianne Cox, winner of WA Music Industry Award for Best Indigenous Artist), Sportsperson of the Year (recipients have included Jesse Williams, the first Indigenous Australian to play professional American football; and Ryan Morich, captain of the Red Dust Heelers, a wheelchair basketball team with a strong focus on unearthing future Aboriginal athletes with disability), and Lifetime Achievement Award (recipients have included Linda Burney, one of the first Indigenous Australians to graduate from Charles Sturt University and now the first Indigenous woman to be elected to the Australian House of Representatives; and Lowitja O’Donoghue, who began working as a nurse at the Royal Adelaide Hospital 60 years ago, was the inaugural chairperson of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, became Australian of the Year in 1984 and named a National Living Treasure in 1998). 

2016 NAIDOC Week runs from 3 – 10 July.