Over 15 000 people gathered at Victoria Park in Camperdown, Sydney, on January 26, 2016, to celebrate Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures at the annual Yabun Festival.
Hosted by Gadigal Information Service, Yabun Festival is one of the largest annual gatherings of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the country, featuring a range of Aboriginal cultural activities, stalls and live music performances.
This year’s Yabun Festival was headlined by Aboriginal rock/reggae icon Bart Willoughby who performed several of his classic Aboriginal anthems, including ‘We have Survived’, in front of an adoring crowd.
Other artists who performed at this year’s event included Leah Flanagan, Bow & Arrow, Drewz, Evie J Willie, Black Turtles, Yarwah, Nooky, Tasman Keith and Radical Son.
Loren Ryan, a 19 year-old singer-songwriter from Tamworth, was among the young and emerging talents who performed at the Young Black and Deadly & Klub Koori Youth Stage. Ms Ryan said she was thrilled to join the Yabun Festival lineup in 2016.
“Yabun is a wonderful platform, especially for a young artists like myself to be able to perform in front of my community and show them how I’ve evolved and grown as an artist, it means the world to me,” said Ms Ryan.
After some early morning rain, the skies cleared for a beautiful Sydney summer’s day and the crowds quickly descended upon the festival grounds. The 2016 Yabun Festival began with a traditional smoking ceremony, followed by the annual Kevin Cook Lecture, presented this year by representatives from the First Peoples Disability Network, Gayle Rankine and Damian Griffis. The speeches addressed a range of issues surrounding disability in Indigenous communities.
At the Speak Out Tent, community members and leaders gathered for some passionate discussion on a range of important issues affecting Aboriginal communities, including Constitutional recognition, domestic violence, and language revival.
The Corroboree Ground was a popular attraction throughout the day, drawing large crowds who watched dance groups from across New South Wales perform traditional Aboriginal dance. Dance groups included Doonoch Dancers, Koomurri, Black Cockatoo Wagana and Djaadjawan Dancers. The Corroboree Ground closed with a memorable flash mob, when audience members were invited onto the Corroboree Ground to join the dancing.
Yabun Festival once more offered a wide range of activities for children, including traditional Aboriginal games, arts and crafts, performance workshops, and circus skills lessons.
Gadigal Information Service CEO, Jodie Choolburra, said the 2016 Yabun Festival marked a new milestone for the event in terms of community support and engagement, also highlighting the high numbers of non-Indigenous people who attended.
“We had over 100 stalls at this year’s Yabun Festival, including many important community organisations, we had over 90 volunteers give their time and effort to make the event the success that it was, we also enjoyed one of our biggest crowds in event history and it was fantastic to see so many Australians, of all backgrounds, meeting, having a good time and celebrating Aboriginal culture and identity in a spirit of unity and respect,” said Mrs Choolburra.
“A huge thanks goes out to all of our volunteers, sponsors and supporters, including the City of Sydney, Australia Council for the Arts, Destination NSW, Arts NSW, Australian Defence Force and the New South Wales Government, to name just a few, we are very proud to deliver such an important festival that just gets bigger every year.”
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