The NAIDOC Week theme for 2021, ‘Heal Country!’, was announced this week and calls for greater protection for land, waters, sacred sites, and cultural heritage.

Releasing a statement on Wednesday, in 2021 the National NAIDOC Committee hopes the week will foster respect between and for all cultures of Australia, ensuring the values of First Peoples are as equally regarded as any other Australian.

“The NAIDOC 2021 theme – Heal Country! – calls for all of us to continue to seek greater protections for our lands, our waters, our sacred sites and our cultural heritage from exploitation, desecration, and destruction,” the statement read.

Speaking to the theme’s purpose, National NAIDOC Committee Chair John Paul Janke noted the importance of Country, saying it’s “inherent to our identity”.

“Country … is more than a place – and is spoken of like a person,” he said.

He said First Nations people are still waiting for significant cultural heritage reform.

“Through the theme, the Committee also wanted to highlight that for generations Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been calling for stronger measures to recognise, protect, and maintain all aspects of our culture and heritage for all Australians,” Janke said.

“Despite this, we are still waiting for those robust protections.

“In addition to protecting culture and heritage, the theme also has a wider invitation in that we believe to ‘heal Country’ we need substantive institutional, structural and collaborative reform.”

An annual event to embrace the culture of Australia’s First Peoples, NAIDOC Week signifies an opportunity for unity and recognises Traditional Owners’ continued work for fair and equitable resolutions.

NAIDOC Week 2021 is on from July 4 until July 11, with the National NAIDOC Awards kicking off the Week on July 3 in Alice Springs. Award nominations under all 10 categories are open now until March 22.

The annual NAIDOC Week poster competition for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists over 13-years-old is also open for entries based around the theme ‘Heal Country!’ until March 8.

The competition sees a $10,000 cash prize, tickets to the Awards ceremony and public display of the winning poster around Australia.

By Aaron Bloch