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5 Jul 2019

What we can learn from ‘Voice, Treaty, Truth’

The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney is celebrating NAIDOC Week from 8 – 12 July with a series of workshops and activities. Josh Brown, Aboriginal Programs Coordinator at Botanic Gardens and Centennial Parklands, reflects on the meaning behind the 2019 NAIDOC Week theme of Voice, Treaty, Truth.

NAIDOC Week celebrations are held across Australia each July to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. NAIDOC originally stood for ‘National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee’, and has now become the name of the week itself.

The 2019 NAIDOC theme 'Voice, Treaty, Truth' encompasses a whole range of factors in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures across Australia. These relate to past and significantly historic events that have occurred, through to current processes of engaging with culture.

Josh Brown sharing his bush food knowledge with students


Voice relates to languages and the diversity of over 300 Indigenous languages that make up what is known today as Australia. Languages that passed down lore, culture and knowledge for over millennia. It also relates to how voice has played a significant part in fighting for basic human rights for Aboriginal people since first contact, providing positive outcomes for all communities and how many voices can lead to impactful change.


Treaty refers to the steps that Indigenous cultures have taken to preserve, protect and sustain many aspects of culture. These include land, cultural practices, and developing partnerships and relationships. As it says on, “In the European settlement of Australia, there were no treaties, no formal settlements, no compacts. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people therefore did not cede sovereignty to our land. It was taken away from us. That will remain a continuing source of dispute”.

Here at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney we aim to preserve, protect and sustain our First Nations cultures every day through our Education and Community programs.

Aboriginal Art programs at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney


Lasting and effective agreement cannot be achieved unless we have a shared, truthful understanding of the nature of the dispute, of the history, of how we got to where we stand now.

Listening to and learning from the truth is the first step in moving forward together for a positive, shared cultural understanding and reconciliation. The true story of colonisation must be told, must be heard, and must be acknowledged. This shouldn’t apply to First Nations peoples; it applies to all Australians.

NAIDOC Week 2019

This NAIDOC Week the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney is focusing on the theme of ‘Voice, Treaty, Truth’. Our team of Aboriginal Educators welcome visitors of all backgrounds and ages to explore the significance of these three elements while learning about Aboriginal culture.

We are running free “join and learn” NAIDOC community workshops at midday from Monday 8 to Friday 12 July, find out more here and bring along your friends, family, or staff cohort.

The Aboriginal Heritage Tour will be running each day from 10.00 am to 11.30 throughout NAIDOC Week, and in the school holidays from 15 – 19 July the kids’ Aboriginal Art holiday program will explore how many voices can lead to positive and impactful change.

Visit the Scarred Tree at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney

For Aboriginal people to have a voice – whether that is in the community, in a workplace, and more recently in the Federal Parliament, it must be heard by others. Listening to others and standing side by side is key for this to occur.
We all have come from different backgrounds, have different views and have been educated in a variety of ways. But if we can all learn from truths, express ourselves through our voice, we can all treaty now in shaping a positive future.

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