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Barunga Festival 2018

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by Annette Vandersluis (subscribe)
I love to travel and some time ago discovered I also love to write, combine this with my husband's photography and we get to share it all with you. Please visit us at www.facebook.com/brucevandersluisimages
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Dance like you never have
Head down the track from Darwin towards Katherine and then turn a little to the left onto the Central Arnhem Road and you will come across a little community called Barunga about 70 kms south east of Katherine.

Each year on the June long weekend, this year Friday 8 Monday 11 June 2018, this little Aboriginal community comes alive with song, music, sport and culture for the Barunga Festival.

barunga festival, Katherine, beswick, community, indigenous, aboriginal, music, song, dance, sport, workshops, outback store, heritage park, bodhi bus, camping, Shelley morris
Photo: Barunga Festival


Then known as Bamyilli, the Festival was the inspiration of Bangala clan elder Bangardi Lee. At the Festival held in 1988 Aboriginal leaders came together and presented the Barunga Statement to Prime Minister Bob Hawke. The statement called for a treaty, and while Prime Minister Hawke signed the statement, it was never brought before Parliament.

Since that first weekend in 1985, the Barunga Festival has been held every year and is one of Darwin's longest and proudest traditions celebrating the best of remote Indigenous Australia and is supported strongly by indigenous and non-indigenous people.



This year's all indigenous musical line up includes talent from across Australia and beyond. Enjoy sounds from the Saltwater Band (Galiwin'ku'), Yirrimal (Yirrkala), Shellie Morris with Dhapanbal Yunupingu, Suming (Taiwan), Dewayne Everettsmith (Tasmania) or Ripple Effect (Maningrida).

As traditional dance takes pride of place, more than 10 groups of traditional dancers will present their unique style. Enjoy Numbulwar's Dhumbul Dancers, Rirritjingu Clan Dancers and the Bulman and Beswick dancers.

barunga festival, Katherine, beswick, community, indigenous, aboriginal, music, song, dance, sport, workshops, outback store, heritage park, bodhi bus, camping, Shelley morris
Photo: Barunga Festival


Learn about Aboriginal culture, participate in traditional dance, take a community tour with the guides, sit down for a workshop and exchange stories over billy tea, compete in the spear-throwing competition or learn to make your own yidaki or spear.

Across the weekend, tradition will meet contemporary music over two stages and three nights. This Festival is a treat for audiences with workshops, acoustic performances, surprise acts and back-to-back community bands on centre stage.

Shellie Morris. Photo: Barunga Festival


On Friday night the Barunga School children will hold the Friday Night Disco. Across the weekend get lost in the crowd at the main stage with live music or curl up under a blanket by the creek with acoustic performances.

Morning performances on the main stage is just for the kids with special guest Justine Clarke or sit down with established musicians for workshops and networking.

Throughout the weekend, pick your team and barrack for those participating in the AFL, softball and basketball competitions. Teams must register to play at the website before Wednesday 16 May 2018, to be in the running for the $500 winning team prize money, or $250 for the runners-up.

barunga festival, Katherine, beswick, community, indigenous, aboriginal, music, song, dance, sport, workshops, outback store, heritage park, bodhi bus, camping, Shelley morris
Sport. Photo: Barunga Festival


Camping is available onsite with plenty of unpowered campsites throughout the community. There are four toilet blocks in the community and while there are no shower facilities there is a refreshing (crocodile free) creek nearby. Campfires are permitted but you will need to bring your own firewood. You are also welcome to bring caravans, campervans and motorhomes however generators and animals are not permitted.

If camping is not your style, a small number of guest rooms are available 30 kms away at Beswick in the Djakanimba Pavilions. Other accommodation is available at Katherine (80 km north west ) or Mataranka (83 km south west). However, Festival guests are encouraged to camp at the community and not travel at night as wandering stock (buffalo and donkeys) may be on the road.

While the road is paved and therefore 4WDs are not required, the road is a single lane and therefore caution is advised. Please also be aware that fuel is not available in the community and therefore you will need to fuel at Katherine (70 kms) or Beswick (30 kms).

barunga festival, Katherine, beswick, community, indigenous, aboriginal, music, song, dance, sport, workshops, outback store, heritage park, bodhi bus, camping, Shellie morris
Photo: Barunga Festival


If you would prefer not to drive, the Bodhi Bus will be running from Katherine to Gapuwiyak stopping in Barunga on Saturday morning and returns on Sunday afternoon.

A variety of food options will be available at reasonable prices. Please be aware that stalls in Heritage Park will be cash only. The Outback Store in Barunga is also well stocked and affordable and a fantastic way to support the local community.

Barunga is a dry community and therefore the Festival is alcohol and drug-free. There will be Police checks on the road to Barunga and your vehicle may be searched.

Tickets for the Festival (3 days) are $50 adults (18 years and over), $15 youth (12 17 years) and $5 children (2 11 years). Booking fees apply for tickets purchased online. Tickets (cash only) will also be available at the gate. Gates will open at 10 am on Friday 8 June 2018.
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Why? A fantastic weekend of Aboriginal music, sport and culture.
When: 8 - 10 June 2018
Phone: 08 8941 8066
Where: Central Arnhem Road, Barunga
Cost: $5 - $50
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