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Barunga Festival a cultural celebration

 

Celebrate with the community of Barunga through Aboriginal culture, music and sport at the annual Barunga Festival, held over the King’s Birthday long weekend in June.

Join the community-wide Barunga Festival for a showcase of Indigenous culture, music, art and sport in an immersive 3-day-long celebration. Barunga is one hour southeast of Katherine in the Top End and its annual festival attracts artists and performers from across the Territory. Festival goers camp out at Barunga, a small town which is usually only open to visitors with a permit. The long weekend festival has a jam-packed program starring some of Australia’s best Indigenous musicians and dance performers.

The family-friendly festival celebrates Indigenous cultural diversity through storytelling circles, cultural workshops and presentations, traditional performances and sporting competitions. The festival takes place on traditional land of the Bagala clan of the Jawoyn people.

Musician John Butler describes Barunga Festival as ‘It’s the kind of festival that changes the way you see the world forever’.

 

Barunga Festival is a celebration of culture

First held almost 40 years ago (when it was known as Bamyili), Barunga Festival’s roots are firmly entrenched in local community with a shared vision celebrating unique Indigenous culture. The grassroots event quickly evolved into one of Australia’s most significant cultural celebrations. The 2023 festival celebrated the 35th anniversary of the landmark Barunga statement which was created at the 1988 Barunga Festival to recognise Indigenous land rights.

Today, Barunga Festival showcases the world’s oldest living culture through a beguiling mix of song, dance, art and sport. Preserving ancient rites, customs and skills is at the heart of the festival program.

Thousands of visitors from around the globe descend on Barunga each June and are welcomed into the community wholeheartedly. Festival goers find an engaging community eager to share their knowledge and experience to the wider community whether Indigenous or non-Indigenous.

 

Celebrate through culture, sport, art & music

Barunga Festival 2024’s line-up of events promises a stimulating program of cultural diversity, including a screening of the documentary Make it Right! about the 1988 festival including the presentation of the Barunga Statement to Prime Minister Bob Hawke in 1991. Sport has always played an important part in the festival and 2024’s Sports Carnival promises to be no different. Teams from across the Territory compete in sports such as Aussie rules football, rugby, basketball and softball alongside traditional activities such as spear throwing.

On the cultural side there are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to engage with traditional dance, song, Dreamtime storytelling and didgeridoo playing. A diverse line-up of world-class musicians from across the Territory are star attractions alongside mesmerising bunggul dance performances which evoke ancient ceremonial connections reaching back thousands of years.

 

Purchase genuine Aboriginal artworks

An Art Fair provides a unique opportunity to purchase original artworks, to meet some of the artists and learn about the inspiration and stories behind their artworks. This iconic Art Fair hosts a curated collection displaying artworks from art centres across the Territory which sell quality handmade Indigenous art, crafts and fabrics.

Festival goers have the opportunity to participate in art and culture workshops which are themed around storytelling, bush medicine, didgeridoo making, painting, weaving and cooking sessions. The program also includes cultural talks and discussion on topics of importance to the Indigenous community such as land rights, language preservation and cultural heritage, to name a few. Food options include bush tucker along with an eclectic collection of popup food stalls.

Essential info about Barunga Festival

  • There are no hotels at Barunga and camping is the only option
  • Stay at Katherine hotels and catch the the daily shuttle bus (approx. one hour each way)
  • Barunga is a dry community and the festival is alcohol free
  • 2024 Festival dates are 7 – 10 June
  • Purchase tickets for Barunga Festival
  • Things to see and do around Katherine.
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