Festivals help Indigenous communities to thrive
Thinking about today’s idea of a festival, for many, it means a group of people coming together for some themed event. But when we think of where festivals came from, for many cultures and people, it has meant a time for celebration, thanks, fun, joy and possibly relaxation.
But there is more!
In a report launched this week cultural festivals have been found to have powerful effects on Indigenous wellbeing, according to research funded by the Telstra Foundation and the Australian Research Council.
Dr Mark Bin Bakar, Chairman of the Australia Council for the Arts’ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts (ATSIA) Board unveiled the findings of the Indigenous Cultural Festivals and Community Wellbeing in Australia report in Sydney this week at the Australia Council.
Three years ago the Telstra Foundation was being approached by many festival organisations from around the country. At this time the Board decided to provide funding to three Indigenous festivals – Garma in East Arnhem Land, Dreaming at Woodford in Queensland and Croc Festival at various locations throughout Australia. Coupled with these commitments the Board decided to commission a three year research project to understand the role and significance of Indigenous cultural festivals in wellbeing outcomes for Indigenous communities and their young people.
Research leader and co-author of the report, Dr Peter Phipps of the Globalism Research Centre RMIT, told me that the research proved cultural festivals improve the wellbeing of Indigenous Australian communities.
Peter said, “the research indicates beyond all doubt that cultural festivals promote an experience of social inclusion, positive institutional engagement and broadened opportunities for Indigenous Australians,”
“There are now over 100 Indigenous festivals that take place across the country. From tiny community events in a local school hall in a remote area to communities coming together at a footy ground, to big national events – the research has shown that these events matter deeply to Indigenous people, and are important ways to renew Indigenous cultures.”
Dr Phipps pointed to the opportunity for government policy leaders to build on these benefits by investing more resources into Indigenous community festivals.
“Stable growth in the sector offers further opportunities for employment and small business development in addition to its proven effectiveness in social and educational engagement for a generation at risk of falling outside both cultures,” he said.
Dr Jackie Huggins shared her delight in being able to celebrate the launch of the report. Jackie is former co-chair of Reconciliation Australia and Telstra Foundation director.
“I see the enormous pride in our people’s faces when they share their skills in arts and culture with other Australians,” she said.
In her speech Jackie highlighted the great work of festivals and encouraged people, “to get along to a local Indigenous Festival and help celebrate our mob’s stories, language, music and culture”.
A key finding of the report highlighted that Indigenous festivals are a leading space of innovation in creating a sustainable, secure and mature national culture for all Australians based on cross-cultural recognition, respect, exchange and creativity.
Dr Lisa Slater (Globalism Research Centre RMIT), Georgia Symmons (Telstra Foundation), Dr Jackie Huggins and Dr Peter Phipps (Globalism Research Centre RMIT), Lydia Miller (Australia Council for the Arts)
Guests enjoyed a stunning performance from popular Indigenous singer and songwriter Emma Donovan who had just arrived home from the World Expo is Shanghai.
The report is available online here
Interested in going to a festival?
The Dreaming Festival – www.thedreamingfestival.com
Mornington Island Gulf Festival – www.morningtonisland.com.au
Laura Aboriginal Dance Festival – www.lauradancefestival.com
Blak Nite Festival – www.carclew.com.au
Garma – www.garma.telstra.com
Walking with Spirits Festival – www.djilpinarts.org.au/spirits
Barunga Festival – www.barungafestival.com.au
Big Fella Festival - www.fallscreek.com.au/bigfella
Deadly Funny Comedy Competition – www.deadlyfunny.com.au
The following site gives a comprehensive list of Indigenous festivals throughout Australia.