Australia’s Aboriginal people celebrate and share their culture at many colourful traditional and contemporary festivals throughout the year. Visit a remote Arnhem Land community at the Stone Country Festival or travel back to the Dreamtime at Walking with Spirits. Head to Cape York Peninsula for the Laura Aboriginal Dance Festival. Browse a diverse range of Aboriginal art at the Darwin or Cairns Aboriginal Art Fairs. Enjoy everything from concerts to comedy at Queensland’s Dreaming Festival. Catch a performance of Bangarra Dance Theatre, Australia’s leading indigenous performing arts company as it tours city and regional venues across Australia.
Sydney, New South Wales
Yabun is the largest single day indigenous festival in Australia, drawing an audience of between 10,000 and 15,000 people on Australia Day. It is one of the most important indigenous music events in the country reflecting the wealth of indigenous creative talent. Some of Australia's best Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander music from around the country is featured, from well established artists to those just emerging on the scene. Yabun also delivers a current and informative cultural program, with discussions and speeches by some of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community's most recognised leaders, academics, politicians and artists.
Taree, New South Wales
The Saltwater Freshwater Festival is a nomadic event that moves to a different location on the Mid North Coast of New South Wales each Australia Day providing a range of healthy, family-friendly activities for the community to enjoy. It is the only Aboriginal cultural festival of its kind in New South Wales. The festival features arts, music, dance, workshops and cultural traditions. It provides an authentic Aboriginal experience for visitors, families and local communities wishing to experience traditional and contemporary Australian Aboriginal culture. The 2013 Saltwater Freshwater Festival will be held in Taree on 26 January 2013.
Adelaide, South Australia
The Spirit Festival is South Australia's premier Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts and Cultural Festival. With more than 100 dancers and singers from across the country, the festival presents a vibrant celebration of traditional and contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, art, dance and music. A smoking ceremony is performed to welcome all visitors to Palti Yerta (dance ground) in Kaurna country, the traditional owners of the land on which the event is held. The Spirit Festival is a special event of great beauty and cultural significance.
Indigenous Arts & Cultural Festival
Listen to Aboriginal singers and bands, browse art exhibitions and see world-class contemporary dance at Yalukit Willam Ngargee. The event is part of Melbourne’s summer St Kilda Festival in February. The name means ‘people place gathering’ and the lively, free event gathers a great line-up of entertainers. Discover new and established Aboriginal performers. Relax in the sun and enjoy the didgeridoo playing and live music on stage. After dark hear bands in a trendy St Kilda pub. There are also book launches and readings, short film screenings, roving performers and markets selling unique arts and wares.
Sydney, New South Wales
Message Sticks is an annual multi-arts held at the Sydney Opera House, celebrating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. It features song, dance, film, discussion and art, fusing contemporary and traditional cultural art forms. Now in its 13th year, the festival is held on the lands of the Gadigal Peoples, at one of the great meeting places, Bennelong Point. Previous festival highlights have included Dancestry - a free modern day corroboree held during sunset. The Black Arm Band Company's highly emotive and stunning closing night performance of Dirtsong, featuring Archie Roach, Tim Rogers and Dan Sultan was also a high point of the festival. Celebrate the rich contribution Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures make to the diversity of the Australian community.
Kununurra, Western Australia
The Ord Valley Muster is a two week festival held in the remote east Kimberley region of Western Australia. What began as a fun one night event – a dinner in the outback for local businesses – has transformed into a two week festival of more than 50 events celebrating the spirit, talent and cultural diversity of the Kimberley. The program includes sport, art, music and nature-based events from mountain bike challenges to cooking demonstrations to bush walks and basketball carnivals. There are markets, art exhibitions, and music under the stars; and festive street parties and indigenous events including the Waringarri Corroboree.
Laura Aboriginal Dance Festival
Cape York Peninsula, Queensland
Every two years in June, hundreds of dancers and thousands of visitors flock to the tiny town of Laura on the remote Cape York Peninsula for the Laura Aboriginal Dance Festival. Aboriginal communities from across the Cape York Peninsula celebrate and share their culture through dance, song, art and performance. Families reconnect and pass down stories while travellers come to experience a culture dating back more than 40,000 years. Pitch a tent in the festival campsite, held on sacred grounds near Laura’s renowned prehistoric rock art. Laura can be reached on the Great Tropical Drive between Cooktown and Mareeba.
Kimberley, Western Australia
Experience the unique art and culture of the Worrorra, Ngarinyin and Wunumbal peoples of the Western Kimberley, in this family friendly, one day and one night event. Held at the Mowanjum Art and Culture Centre, the festival features over 100 Indigenous dance performers, boab tree nut carving, didgeridoo workshops and magnificent corroborrees. Mowanjum Art and Culture Centre is approximately 12 kilometres from Derby along the Gibb River Road in Western Australia’s remote Kimberley region.
Beswick, Northern Territory
Travel deep into the Aboriginal Dreamtime at Walking with Spirits, a unique weekend of cultural immersion held in late July or early August. The location is MalkgulumbuItu, a sacred waterfall and lakeside site around 100 kilometres south-east of Katherine. Here the Jawoyn people share their story through traditional corroborree as well as dance, music, puppetry, film and fiery images. Camp amongst the paperbark trees and connect with the spirit ancestors who shaped the land, animals, plants and seasons. This is the only time of year you can visit this remote and beautiful location, and tickets to the event are limited.
Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair
Darwin, Northern Territory
Bark paintings, metal sculptures, didgeridoos, fibre art and jewellery are just some of the diverse art works for sale in the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair in August. It’s a unique opportunity for visitors to buy direct from more than 40 community-owned Aboriginal art centres from across Australia. Visitors will discover emerging and established artists, be able to talk to the artists themselves and learn about the distinctive artistic styles of different cultural groups. See woven baskets from East Gippsland, Dreamtime dot paintings from Alice Springs; and the ochre-coloured canvas paintings produced by the Warmun artists of the Kimberley region.
Cairns Indigenous Art Fair
Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (CIAF) is a unique three-day event that merges an art market with a celebration of Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. It is the only art fair in Australia that exclusively sells and showcases art by Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. There are public talks and forums, including the CIAF Symposium, where leading Australian and international speakers, artists, and collectors discuss Queensland indigenous art. Children and families can get involved in hands-on art activities. There is a program of free indigenous dance and a warm welcome from the traditional owners, the Yidinji.
Gunbalanya, Northern Territory
Experience life in the Gunbalanya (Oenpelli) community of western Arnhem Land at the Stone Country Festival in August. It’s a day when the Kunwinjku speaking people open their doors to visitors. Watch dancing, listen to the didgeridoo and sample bush tucker. Join a rock art tour, take a scenic flight over the awe-inspiring landscapes of Kakadu or cheer on local athletes at the sports carnival. The community art centre hosts painting and fibre art demonstrations, while local bands headline the day’s musical festivities. Gunbalanya is a three hour drive from Darwin or 45 minutes from Jabiru in Kakadu National Park.
Darwin, Northern Territory
August - October
The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award was initiated by the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory in 1984. Today it offers the highest prize money for any art award in Australia. The award attracts a broad range of artistic talent from around the country presenting a diversity of styles, with more than 150 works on exhibition. It is a showcase for both established and emerging artists and has come to be regarded as one of the premier national events in the Australian indigenous art calendar.
Alice Springs, Northern Territory
The Alice Desert Festival is Central Australia’s premier arts and cultural festival, celebrating the desert and its rich cultural landscape. Every September Alice Springs is transformed with a bold cultural celebration based on the highest quality art and big ideas. The program is diverse, from classical music, literature and theatre to culinary programs. There is also contemporary dance, family programs, traditional indigenous arts and the Wearable Art Awards. The program comprises around 40 performances and over 60 events performed by over 1,000 artists in at least 20 venues each year. It attracts an audience of more than 50,000 every year.
Alice Springs, Northern Territory
The Desert Mob Symposium is an exploration of Aboriginal artists, their art and their Art Centres. The program is the only forum of its kind and provides a window to the Aboriginal Art Centre world. Aboriginal artists from Desart member Art Centres together with interstate guests perform a program of stories, song, images, film and dance about culture, country and art. The Desert Mob MarketPlace is a large indoor-outdoor market with stalls selling affordable Aboriginal art, crafts and products including wood carvings, bush medicine and weavings and refreshments.
Bangarra Dance Theatre is Australia’s leading Indigenous performing arts company. Bangarra is recognised nationally and internationally for distinctive dance theatre performances that combine the spirituality of traditional culture with modern story-telling. Presenting over 110 performances each year Bangarra tours internationally as well as extensively to national, regional and remote centres across Australia. Bangarra is also committed to developing the next generation of Indigenous storytellers through mentoring and training of creative Indigenous young people. The company creates inspiring dance theatre that resonates with people throughout Australia and the world. Catch a performance at one of the city or regional venues.