NAIDOC Week 2023 is a time to honour the rich cultural heritage and the enduring resilience of Australia's First Nations people. From July 2nd to July 9th, this annual celebration brings together Australians to recognize the diverse cultures, histories, and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. It serves as a powerful platform for sharing stories, promoting understanding, and forging a path towards reconciliation. This year's theme is For Our Elders; across every generation, our Elders have played, and continue to play, an important role and hold a prominent place in our communities and families.
We have curated a list of fascinating First Nations storytellers whose achievements and expertise span many topics and themes, as well as some Non-Indigenous experts and academics on why NAIDOC Week is so important, why organisations need to support Indigenous self-determination and why the time is now.
COREY TUTT - FOUNDER & CEO OF DEADLYSCIENCE
Corey Tutt OAM is a proud Kamilaroi man and Young Australian of the Year for NSW 2020. He is the CEO and founder of the charity DeadlyScience, which provides science resources, mentoring, and training to over 110 remote and regional schools across Australia, focusing on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
Corey’s passion for Indigenous education has also been recognised through various awards, including the CSIRO Indigenous STEM Champion 2019; AMP Tomorrow Maker 2019, and ABC Trailblazer 2019, 2020 Eureka prize finalist and in 2022, he was awarded an Order of Australia Medal for his service to Indigenous STEM education.
CARA PEEK - AWARD-WINNING CULTURAL INTELLIGENCE STRATEGIST
Cara Peek is a formidable agent for change, multi-award winning First Nations cultural intelligence strategist and diverse entrepreneurial thought leader.
She identifies as many things, a Yawuru/Bunuba woman, a successful lawyer, a diverse entrepreneurial leader, and an innovative Cultural Intelligence Strategist. As Co-Founder of The Cultural Intelligence Project, her work predominately addresses the need for more globally conscious business practices, with a hard lens on female-empowered narratives within this space.
Cara will be on the East Coast for National Reconciliation Week 2023 and is available for events ex Sydney.
CATHY FREEMAN - ONE OF AUSTRALIA'S GREATEST-EVER OLYMPIANS
Cathy Freeman is one of Australia's best-loved and most successful Olympic champions. Her greatest achievement came in 2000 at the Sydney Olympic Games as her image was beamed into millions of homes worldwide. This was when Cathy became the first competing athlete to be invited to light the Olympic flame at the opening ceremony; she then went on to win the gold medal in the 400m, realizing a life-long dream. Cathy's journey has been documented in the critically acclaimed ABC documentary Freeman released in celebration of the 20th Anniversary of the Sydney Olympic Games.
She was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) and the Centenary Medal in 2001 and retired from competitive running in 2003.
DR PAUL CALLAGHAN - CULTURAL CONSULTANT, AUTHOR & SPEAKER
Dr Paul Callaghan is a Worimi man with 20 years of experience at the senior management, executive and CEO levels and over 20 years of cultural learning through going bush with Elders.
Paul is passionate about sharing the wisdom and lessons that can be learned from the Oldest living culture on earth and that combining Western and Aboriginal values gives us a better chance at sitting together in unity and fellowship and better appreciating the beautiful land we are blessed with to live in.
VANESSA TURNBULL-ROBERTS - ADVOCATE FOR HUMAN & CHILDREN'S RIGHTS & REFORM
When Vanessa Turnbull-Roberts speaks, she leaves the room feeling a movement of wanting change for the better. Vanessa inspires and invites audiences to understand and learn what a better world looks like, using her personal and professional experiences.
Vanessa is a proud Bundjalung Widubul-Wiabul Woman who is a Human Rights advocate, author, writer and Fulbright Scholar dedicated to decolonisation and empowering Indigenous self-determination and Justice for First Nations people and children in Australia and globally.
ISAIAH DAWE - FROM FOSTER KID TO CEO
At 17, Butchulla and Garawa Salt Water man Isaiah Dawe were travelling back to boarding school after the holidays when his foster carer sent him a text saying he could no longer live with them.
This was the genesis for Isaiah to create ID. Know Yourself is the first Aboriginal-led organization delivering 1:1 mentoring and support coordination to Aboriginal children and young people in contact with the Out of Home Care and Juvenile Justice system in New South Wales, as Founder and CEO of ID. Know Yourself, Isaiah is determined to impact the lives of the 22,000 Aboriginal children in Out of Home Care; their purpose is to break the cycle of intergenerational trauma and disadvantage by establishing belonging, discovering purpose, and empowering positive choices.
RAE JOHNSTON - AWARD-WINNING STEMM JOURNALIST
Rae Johnston is a proud Wiradjuri woman and Australia's leading commentator on all things technology, science and pop culture. A multi-award-winning journalist, Rae is SBS's first Science & Technology Editor for NITV.
Rae is passionate about Indigenous science, diverse representation in STEM, and the critical role of mentorship. Rae volunteers as a mentor for Science Media Centre Australia's Indigenous Science program and Indigitek.
TODD FERNANDO - VIC COMMISSIONER FOR LGBTQIA+ COMMUNITIES
Todd is a descendant of the Kalarie peoples of the Wiradjuri nation and identifies as queer with the pronouns he/him. Todd is the Victorian Commissioner for LGBTIQ+ Communities - the second person to fill this groundbreaking position. In this role, Todd provides high-level strategic advice to the Victorian Government on developing policies, services and programs to meet the needs of LGBTIQ+ communities.
Todd is a leading expert in reforming social policy and cultural safety frameworks in the public and private sectors across Australia. Todd is recognised as a strategic thought leader, with a commitment to improving outcomes and opportunities for all Australians.
NOVA PERIS - FORMER SENATOR & INDIGENOUS RIGHTS ACTIVIST
Nova Peris OAM OLY MAICD was Australia's first Aboriginal woman elected to Federal Parliament and the first Aboriginal Australian and Northern Territorian to win an Olympic Gold Medal.
Nova is a tireless advocate for Indigenous Rights and recognition and works hard to change attitudes throughout the Australian community. As a treaty ambassador for the former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC), she travelled around the country, campaigning for a treaty between Black and white Australians so that a fundamental understanding between the two groups could be forged. Peris has also served as International Indigenous Human Rights Ambassador and National Ambassador for Reconciliation Australia.
VICTOR STEFFENSEN - AUTHOR OF FIRE COUNTRY
Victor Steffensen became the face of Indigenous land management during the catastrophic bushfires.
He is a keeper of memories, a custodian of a knowledge handed down for thousands of years: the ability to see when the land is sick and know how to heal it. When he reads Country, Victor Steffensen draws on a sophisticated, historical and complex understanding of the nuances of seasonal shifts and minute observation of nature. The intimate knowledge of ecosystems and how things are interrelated, of fire and water, the significance of the timing of flowers blossoming, the breeding behaviour of animals, the particle nature of trees and the ground they stand on. It is knowledge, he believes, that can heal our country.
EVONNE GOOLAGONG CAWLEY - AUSTRALIAN TENNIS ICON
Evonne Goolagong Cawley, AC, MBE is a Wiradjuri woman and one of Australia's most loved sportspeople. Evonne is an Australian icon and has been Australian of the Year (1971) and Australian Sportsman of the Year in 1972 Queen Elizabeth II appointed her as a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE). In 2018 Evonne was awarded Australia's highest honour and was appointed as a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) for eminent service to tennis as a player at the national and international level, as an ambassador, supporter and advocate for the health, education and wellbeing of young Indigenous people through participation in sport and as a role model.
Since 2005, Evonne has run the Goolagong National Development Camp for Indigenous girls and boys. Using tennis to promote better health, education and employment, the program has awarded school scholarships, produced university scholars, tennis players, coaches, and sports administrators and helped with employment placement.
SASHA SARAGO - FOUNDER OF ASCENSION MEDIA
Sasha Kutabah Sarago is a Wadjanbarra Yidinji, Jirrbal and African-American woman.
A former model, Sasha grew frustrated by the invisibility of multicultural women in fashion and media. In 2011, she founded Ascension, Australia’s first digital lifestyle platform for women of colour. As a speaker, Sasha raises awareness around culture, diversity and equity in the business, media and lifestyle sectors. Her first book Gigorou, published in 2023, explores First Nations Beauty and Womanhood. In a time where the patriarchy obstructs women from the divine feminine, and sexism, racism, and ageism violate our sovereignty, Gigorou invites us to explore the interconnectedness of Aboriginal culture to resolve our relationship with beauty and ourselves.
NOEL PEARSON - INSPIRATIONAL ABORIGINAL LEADER
Noel Pearson comes from the Guugu Yimidhirr community of Hopevale on the South Eastern Cape York Peninsula. He is an Indigenous Australian, a land rights activist, and a history and law graduate of the University of Sydney.
Noel is an Advisor for the Cape York Partnership (CYP), Chairman of Good to Great Schools Australia (GGSA), and current Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow at the University of Melbourne. Noel’s goal is to enable Cape York’s Indigenous people to have the capacity to choose the life they have reason to value by reinstating the rights of Aboriginal people to take responsibility for their lives.
RACHAEL HOCKING - 2020 DREAMTIME MEDIA PERSON OF THE YEAR
Rachael Hocking is a Warlpiri woman from the Northern Territory.
She is a freelance journalist, moderator, and presenter who is passionate about Aboriginal women’s rights and climate justice.
In 2020 Rachael was named Media Person of the Year at the Dreamtime Awards, and she received a First Nations Media Australia award for her coverage of Kumanjayi Walker.
In 2019 she joined the Board of the Dart Centre for Journalism and Trauma in the Asia Pacific, where she advocates for better, trauma-informed reporting in Indigenous communities.
KYLIE CAPTAIN - GAMILAROI WOMAN, AUTHOR, EDUCATOR & PRESIDENT OF THE ABORIGINAL STUDIES ASSOCIATION
Kylie Captain is a proud Gamilaroi woman, born and raised in the inner-city Sydney suburbs of Redfern and Waterloo. Kylie is an educational leader and highly engaging and experienced public speaker.
Kylie is the President of the Aboriginal Studies Association and, over the past 23 years, has had an impressive career working in Aboriginal affairs, education, finance and community service. Kylie's story is a testament to the strength of culture, kin and connection to Country. She shares her experience and knowledge as an educational leader. Through her narrative, Kylie takes you on an eye-opening journey of truth-telling, identity and hope. From breaking the cycle and facing fear to using the power of education and visualisation, Kylie inspires the audience to take on life's challenges with strength and courage.
Learn more about Kylie >
SHELLEY WARE - EDUCATION CONSULTANT, KEYNOTE SPEAKER, MC & MEDIA PERSONALITY
Shelley Ware is a proud Yankunytjatjara and Wirangu woman from Adelaide, South Australia, who currently lives in Melbourne.
Shelley is a member of the Carlton FC RAP committee and the AFLW All Australian and Rising Star Selection committee. Shelley has become one of the most respected and recognised female presenters of AFLM and AFLW football in the country. Recently announced as the Essendon Women’s Network ‘Football Woman of the Year.’ Shelley is a well sought after MC and Keynote Speaker.
Shelley has co-written the national curriculum through Culture is Life and ABC Education for the Australian Dream and Archie Roach - Stolen Generation . For the second year in a row, she has written the national primary curriculum for NAIDOC week with SBS Learn and this year writing both primary and Secondary.