Inside Barunga Festival: Celebrating distant Indigenous Australia


How usually will we ever get the chance to go to certainly one of Australia’s distant Indigenous communities? To have a uniquely Australian expertise amid purple earth and pandanus timber?

The Barunga Festival is such a uncommon likelihood, the place the group spirit shines by elders, dancers and artists, and the schoolkids who take you on a tour and educate you about native historical past, language, and tradition.

The competition has been working since 1985, making this showcase of group life within the Katherine area an iconic occasion on the realm’s social calendar. Some 4000 guests flip as much as immerse themselves within the distinctive expertise of a distant Indigenous group; that is the one time of the 12 months you may go to Barunga with out a allow.

Get with this system

A Welcome to Country by Traditional Owners kicks off a protracted weekend full of music, sports activities, cultural and humanities packages. At the competition’s coronary heart is the sharing of customs and abilities to youthful generations and group celebration of indigenous tradition.

In quick, the competition is not a vacationer present for guests, though guests will discover a pleasant welcome and the chance to share in Indigenous information. Nor does it merely protect the previous. The world’s oldest dwelling tradition remains to be evolving, and the Barunga Festival is an exuberant mix of each the traditional and modern.

“It’s a busy time, filled with community and visitors. It’s about sharing culture. It’s about everyone getting together and having good times and a lot of fun over a long weekend,” says Anne-Marie from the Barunga Festival steering committee. 

At the festival's heart is the sharing of customs and skills to younger generations.

At the competition’s coronary heart is the sharing of customs and abilities to youthful generations. Photo: Bruce Baker/Barunga Festival

Everyone is welcome to study the artwork of didgeridoo taking part in and conventional storytelling. Talk to elders about the best way to throw a spear. Drink billy tea with the Banatjarl Strongbala Wimun Grup – the native girls’s council – and study bush drugs, bush tucker, and the artwork of weaving. Or, have a go at conventional dance kinds.

“This year, participants from Groote Eylandt in the Gulf of Carpentaria will present their dancing. They ask visitors if they want to join in, and everyone loves it. It’s a good, exciting event,” says Lee.

Listen to the music. Plunder the meals stalls. Try damper scorching from the coals. Join the espresso queue and have a chat as you wait. Cheers from the sidelines of the softball, basketball, and Aussie guidelines competitions. Some 40 AFL groups come from throughout the Northern Territory to play on the grass oval, creating a number of the weekend’s most thrilling moments.

Explore extra

Barunga is 80 kilometres southeast of Katherine on sealed roads and, whilst you’re there, you may benefit from the wider area the place the rusty purple panorama collides with watery tropics. Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge has nice crumbling cliffs of purple rock finest appreciated by taking a quiet kayak paddle – although for those who can afford it, a scenic helicopter flight is spectacular.

An Indigenous tour is an effective way to understand the significance of this panorama to the Jawoyn, Dagoman, and Wardaman individuals, and see a number of the age-old rock artwork that adorns its cliffs.

Nitmiluk National Park preserves vital cultural websites comparable to beautiful Leliyn (Edith Falls) whose paperbark-fringed pool invitations you for a swim. Walk to Sweetwater Pool for a extra distant and solitary dip.

The beautiful Edith Falls in Australia's Nitmiluk National Park.

The lovely Edith Falls in Australia’s Nitmiluk National Park. Photo: Tourism NT/Sean Scott

Keen hikers can sort out the 62-kilometre Jatbula Trail alongside the Arnhem Land escarpment, which showcases woodland, pockets of monsoon forest, big termite mounds, purple rock, and extra waterfalls.

You’ll additionally wish to go to Elsey Station, the place in 1902 Jeannie Gunn wrote about it in We of the Never Never. After exploring the heritage websites – together with a haunting cemetery whose termite mounds outdo tombstones – try the Stockyard Gallery for native Aboriginal artwork and didgeridoos. You’ll see how this land has impressed tradition for tens of 1000’s of years – and nonetheless does, in thrilling and progressive methods.

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The Barunga Festival runs 12-14 August 2022. For extra data, go to