The important role dogs play in Indigenous communities – celebrating NAIDOC Week 2022


NAIDOC Week runs from Sunday 3 July to Sunday 10 July in 2022. It’s a special week held in the first week of July each year to celebrate Indigenous (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) culture, history and achievements. 

It’s an ideal time for us to look at the importance of dogs to Indigenous communities.

Dogs and Indigenous communities

Australia’s Indigenous community has had a long relationship with dogs, dating back to the dog’s ancestor, the dingo. Dingo fossils in Australia date back thousands of years, and the first British settlers in 1788 recorded dingoes living with Indigenous Australians. Dingoes also feature prominently in the cultural Dreamtime stories of Indigenous Australians, and are recognised as a native animal under Australian law.

Domestic dogs were introduced into Australia upon British settlement. Dingoes were then actively discouraged from farm areas as they tended to prey on sheep and cattle. Dogs largely replaced dingoes in terms of human companionship in the fledgling colony as a result. Today, there are more than 5 million dogs in Australia, but it’s estimated that there are only 10,000 to 50,000 dingoes. It’s hard to get an exact figure with dingoes being such free, roaming animals. Australia’s Indigenous population is approximately 800,000.

Today, there is also no real distinction between dingoes and dogs in Indigenous culture. In some communities, both dingoes and dogs are believed to be reincarnations of ancestors, as well as protectors from bad spirits. Dingoes and dogs have also tended to be highly valued in Indigenous communities over the years for their hunting and protecting skills, especially in remote communities. 

The Aussie Desert Dogs

Many Indigenous communities in Australia are in very remote areas, posing a challenge for access to veterinary care for the dogs in these communities. The Aussie Desert Dogs is a not-for-profit organisation run by Gloria Morales in Yuendumu that does important work in this area. It works to improve the health of all companion animals in Indigenous communities, including dogs of course. 

If you’re interested in helping both dogs and Indigenous communities, you can purchase one of our Aussie Desert Dog Toys with 10% of sales going back to the This important charity.  

You can also find out more about all of this year’s NAIDOC activities around Australia here.