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Festivals in Australia

Australia’s Indigenous people celebrate and share their culture at many colorful traditional and contemporary festivals throughout the year. Visit a remote Gove Peninsula community at the Gama 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 Saltwater Freshwater Festival on the New South Wales North Coast. Catch a performance of Bangarra Dance Theatre, Australia’s leading Indigenous performing arts company as it tours city and regional venues across Australia.

Yabun Festival Sydney, New South Wales, January

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 recognized leaders, academics, politicians and artists.

Saltwater Freshwater, Various locations, New South Wales , January

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 is held in on 26 January each year.

Spirit Festival, SA

Spirit Festival, Adelaide, South Australia, February

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.

Melbourne Indigenous Arts Festival,Melbourne, Victoria,February

Melbourne Indigenous Arts Festival celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture with a diverse range of events including traditional and contemporary Indigenous theatre, screen, dance, cabaret, visual art, spoken word, opera and conversation. National established and upcoming performers attend the eleven day festival which attracts a national audience who are invited to check out its wide range of arts events. Events include Koorioboree, a cultural dance gathering and Aboriginal Heritage Walks that give an insight into the Wurundjeri, Boonerwrung, Taungurong, Djajawurrung and the Wathaurung that make up the Kulin Nation.

Homeground, Sydney, New South Wales, April

Homeground, which was formerly known as 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.

Tjungu Festival, NT

Tjungu Festival, Voyages Ayers Rock Resort, Northern Territory, April

Held at Voyages Ayers Rock Resort in April, the free four day family-friendly Tjungu Festival celebrates Indigenous culture through everything from culture to fashion, sport to music and art to food. In local Anangu language, Tjungu means meeting or coming together and provides a fantastic opportunity for attendees to be fully immersed in Australian Indigenous and local Anangu culture. There's a bush tucker master class with Indigenous chefs, a concert of contemporary and traditional music as well as the Tjungu Cup - an AFL match.

Ord Valley Muster, Kununurra, Western Australia, May

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.

National Indigenous Music Awards, Darwin, Northern Territory, May

Indigenous Australia’s music is recognised through The National Indigenous Music Awards (NIMAs) which is held each August in Darwin. The awards highlight new acts, those who are receiving international acclaim and pays homage to acts who have paved the way some years before. NIMAs is a family-friendly awards night that is held annually in Darwin at the Gardens Amphitheatre and features live music performances from leading Indigenous musicians throughout the evening. In 2013, NIMA celebrated 10 years of recognising Indigenous music and continues to be the main event in the Indigenous music calendar.

National Indigenous Music Awards, NT

Laura Aboriginal Dance Festival, Cape York Peninsula, Queensland, June

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.

Mowanjum Festival, Kimberley, Western Australia, July

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.

Walking with Spirits, Beswick, Northern Territory, July

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 Malkgulumbutu, 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.

Desert Mob, NT

NAIDOC Week, Various locations, Australia wide ,July

In July every year, NAIDOC Week celebrates the history, culture and achievements of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. NAIDOC originally stood for ‘National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee’ which was responsible for organising national activities which has since become the name of the week itself. Today, capital cities and local communities celebrate through family fun days that showcase Indigenous culture and provide a gathering place. In addition, a different city is selected to host the National NAIDOC Awards Ceremony which honours the achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair, Darwin, Northern Territory, August

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, Queensland, August

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 Festival, NT

National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award, 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.

Garma Festival, Gukula, Northern Territory, August

The Northern Territory's Yolngu culture is celebrated in this three day event that has earned a strong following Australia wide. The annual festival traditionally opens with a Yidaki (didjeridu) performance and is then followed by the festival events of visual art exhibitions, ancient storytelling, dance, music, forums, education and training programs. The Garma Festival is particularly known for its connection between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians through its display of cultural practice and cross cultural learning.

Desert Mob, Alice Springs, Northern Territory, September

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.

Corroboree Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, November

Held in November, Corroboree Sydney is an annual Sydney festival that combines leading Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists, writers, dancers and musicians as they showcase their unique talents and flair. There will be visual arts, literature and performing arts as well as artist workshops over the eleven day event. The event was held for the first time in 2013.