The Saltwater Freshwater Festival at Coffs Harbour is just one of the events that celebrates indigenous around Australia.
The Saltwater Freshwater Festival at Coffs Harbour is just one of the events that celebrates indigenous around Australia. leigh Jensen

Exploring our cultural festivals

DID you know that there are a number of Aboriginal cultural festivals held throughout the calendar year, Australia wide? Chances are that if you're not an Aboriginal person, you may not have heard of many or even any of the following festivals.

Starting with the festival closest to home, the Freshwater Saltwater is held at Coffs Harbour on January 26 every two years. The festival which has been running since 2010, celebrates local Aboriginal culture particularly, and is organised by the Freshwater Salt Water Alliance. The Alliance is a non profit organisation representative of the 10 Local Aboriginal land councils in the Mid north coast.

In previous years, the festival has been held at the Coffs Harbour botanical Gardens with musical entertainment by the likes of Archie Roach and Troy Cassar-Daley.

This year the festival will be held at the jetty foreshores from 10am to 5pm. Admission is free.

Another Aboriginal festival occurring on January 26 is Yabun which is held in Gadigal country at Victoria Park, Sydney each year. Yabun is a Gadigal word meaning "music to a beat". The festival certainly lives up to its name, with the 2019 featuring artist including Roger Knox, Shakaya and Isaiah. Gates open at 10am to 7pm.

Some more traditional Aboriginal festivals include the Laura Dance Festival and the Garma Festival at North East Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory and Djungu at Uluru.

Laura is a small town in Cape York, Qld, that is the traditional meeting place of Aboriginal people in the area. On July 3-5, 2020, Laura will again hold the longest running and largest Aboriginal festival in Australia (the festival commenced in the early 80s).

The festival features traditional Aboriginal dance and music. Over 20 different local Aboriginal communities join in the dance festival which is held on a Bora Ring (which is a traditional and sacred ceremonial site).

Whilst the Garma festival is held at Gulkula near Nhulunbuy each year. Garma is a Yolngu word that describes a "two-way learning process". Visitors attending the festival will need to fly from Darwin or Cairns to either Nhulunbuy or Gove. The organisers, the Yothu Yindi Foundation will then arrange transportation to the festival site. Because of its remote location the festival is expensive with prices commencing at $1056.

This year the festival is held on August 3-5 and as always will feature cultural talks and well as practical workshops and performances of traditional Yolngu culture. Despite its remoteness the festival attracts around 2000 local, national and international participants.

The annual Tjungu Festival at Uluru is relatively new compared to some of the other festivals. However it has proven to be extremely successful and 2019 should be no different. The 5th Tjungu Festival held on April 26-29, will feature Aboriginal model Samantha Harris leading an all Indigenous fashion show as well Troy Cassar-Daley and renowned Aboriginal chef, Mark Olive better known as the "Black Olive". The Tjungu Cup which features an AFL between two local teams also provides excitement. Tjungu is local Anangu word meaning "meeting together".

Other notable Aboriginal festivals include Tarnanthi Art Fair (meaning to come together or appear) at Adelaide at a date to be announced and Parrtjima, Festival Alice Springs on 5-14 April 2019.

Giinagay Jinggiwahla ("hello" in our first nations languages) is a weekly column written by the indigenous communities of the Clarence Valley covering a variety of topics, opinions and events across our first nation areas Bundjalung, Yaegl and Gumbaynggirr.