There’s nothing like an Aboriginal festival to remind you about Australia’s deep, ancient history and the beauty of the land. Learning about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture is an important part of being Australian and there are plenty of festivals that aim to bring people together to do just that.
Here are the top 10 Aboriginal festivals for 2019. We hope you’ll make a point of going along to at least one to experience the history, culture, language, arts and food of these ancient peoples.
Held on Australia Day as a way to celebrate the original landowners, Yabun Festival is an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander event that encompasses music, dance, arts, culture, politics and heritage. It begins with a march that begins at Hyde Park and finishes at the site (Victoria Park in Camperdown). There are colourful stalls, live music, cultural performances and children’s activities. Additionally, Yabun presents panel discussions and community forums around Aboriginal issues.
Known as ‘a festival in light’, the Parrtjima Festival features spectacular artwork and light installations. The lights are beamed onto the MacDonnell Ranges every night in a breathtaking display of colour and artistry. Alice Springs comes alive with large-scale installations of art, sound and light. Book your accommodation early as the event becomes more popular every year.
Part of the extremely popular Bluesfest Festival, Boomerang calls itself ‘a new world Indigenous festival for all Australians’. The programme offers the very best in arts, talks and ideas, thought-provoking conversations and introduces emerging dancers and musicians.
The four-day Tjungu Festival is hosted by the Ayers Rock Resort and boasts an impressive line-up of musical acts including the famous Troy Cassar-Daley, and a fashion parade led by indigenous supermodel, Samantha Harris. Local Aboriginal artists show off their beautiful works, the local Mutitjulu and Yulara football teams go head-to-head on the field and the ‘Tastes of Tjungu’ outdoor desert dining experience serves a bush food-inspired menu.
Food lovers, don’t miss A Taste of Kakadu which brings you Australia’s “most gifted practitioners of Indigenous food”. Bush cuisine is the flavour of this event, which features cooking master classes, forage walks with Indigenous guides, traditional ground oven feasts, canapé cruises on billabongs and more. Experience outdoor dining like you never have before and indulge in contemporary cuisine inspired by ancient ingredients.
This one’s not just a music festival but it also includes sport and culture on its roster! The 3-day June long weekend attracts an audience of around 4,000 indigenous and non-indigenous people from across the globe. Barunga Festival was established in 1985 by the Bagala clan, to showcase the Katherine region. Musical performers are all indigenous and come from regions far and wide.
There’s a children’s Friday night disco, traditional Aboriginal dancing, acoustic performances and musical workshops. Watch didgeridoo making, bush tucker demonstrations and bush medicine workshops. Meet indigenous artists and buy their works, check out the men’s and women’s football, basketball and softball matches and eat delicious bush tucker.
NAIDOC stands for National Aborigine and Islanders Day Observance Committee. (Since the 1970s, the ‘day’ turned into a week.) The annual celebrations cover the culture, history and achievements of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders and each year, a different theme and a different focus city is chosen. For 2019, the theme is ‘Voice. Treaty. Truth.’
Events are held across the country but the annual National NAIDOC Awards Ceremony is held in this year’s focus city of Canberra. The awards recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in numerous categories including Person of the Year, Youth of the Year, Artist of the Year, Male and Female Elder of the Year and more.
The remote location is no deterrent to passionate attendees. The Garma Festival attracts 2,500 visitors every year to its Gulkula location, forty kilometres along an unsealed road from Nhulunbuy in the NT. Over four days, Australia’s largest Indigenous-led, Indigenous-programmed cultural exchange unfolds with a programme bursting with arts and music, cultural dance, speaker events, language workshops, fireside chats, astronomy, lectures, poetry recitals, women’s healing, bush crafts, guided bush walks and so much more. Ticket prices include airport shuttles, event access, tent accommodation, all meals, tea and coffee.
The National Indigenous Music Awards are a huge event on the Darwin Festival’s calendar. The best in Indigenous music from around Australia is honoured and recognition awarded to some of the country’s greatest talents. Enjoy performances by singers and dancers on the evening of 11 August.
Warming up the three winter months, the Quandamooka Festival boasts a huge line-up of 55 events! Held at Dunwich on North Stradbroke Island, it’s a popular event for all ages.
The festival is named after the Quandamooka Coast and many of the events encompass the sand, sea, catchments, creeks and lakes of the area. There are Indigenous sports, arts and cultural talks, weaving workshops, eco boat tours, whale watching cultural tours, dances and other performances, plus corroborees, weaving workshops and more.
Just as it’s important to embrace the multicultural flavour of Australia as it concerns immigrants, it’s every bit as critical to learn more about that of our country’s original inhabitants. They have a great deal to teach us about the environment, nature, our climate, health, wellbeing and spirituality.
Going along to Aboriginal festivals in Australia is enlightening, fun and exciting. They’re events the whole family can enjoy and be a part of, and they’re right in our own backyard. Which festival will you choose in 2019?