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Aboriginal Cultural Events

Aboriginal Cultural Events

Ranging from community festivals, art exhibitions, talks, live music and dance performances, drama screenings to even augmented reality mobile apps – there’s a wide and varied range of Aboriginal cultural events in Australia.

Attend Cultural & Community Festivals

Some notable festivals include:

Barunga Festival (NT)
8-10 June
Community festival celebrating the best of remote Aboriginal culture (particularly showcasing the Katherine region), held annually over the Queens Birthday weekend. A festival of “music, sport, traditional arts and cultural activities over the 3-day long weekend in June each year, welcomed by the traditional owners” (Barunga Festival).

Yabun Festival (NSW)
26 January
Prominent one-day festival celebrating Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. The festival hosts live music from established and emerging musicians (past performers include famous Australian singers Jessica Mauboy, Dan Sultan and Archie Roach), dance performance, a thriving stalls market, community forums and discussion panels.

Deadly Funny Comedy Showcase (VIC)
28 March-22 April
Up for laughs? The Deadly Funny Comedy showcase, a part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, presents the “freshest, fiercest and funniest Aboriginal talent from around the country” (Deadly Funny Comedy).

NAIDOC Week (Nationwide)
8-15 July
NAIDOC, held in July, is a week of celebration highlighting the achievements, culture, and history of Aboriginal Australians and Torres Strait Islander peoples. In 2018, Sydney will be the host city for major events, but events are usually held nation-wide.

For a much more comprehensive guide on cultural festivals happening in your state or local area, check out Creative Spirit’s cultural festival list.

Catch traditional and contemporary theatre and dance performance touring in your city 

Prominent arts companies include:

Bangarra Dance Theatre (NSW)
The Bangarra Dance Theatre is a widely-acclaimed contemporary modern dance company, as well as one of Australia’s leading performing arts companies, with new theatrical and dance performances staged each year.

Ilbijerri Theatre Company (VIC)
The Ilbijerri Theatre Company is ‘Australia’s leading and longest running Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander theatre company’ (Ilbijerri Theatre Company), producing powerful theatrical works direct from Indigenous Australian creators.

Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company (WA)
Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company is another leading Australian theatre company creating and bringing Aboriginal Australian stories to the stage.

On the Screen: Film & Drama

Fancy more of a quiet night-in? Why not binge-watch some contemporary film and drama series from leading Aboriginal Australian film-makers:

TV SCI-FI: CLEVERMAN (2016 – present)
Set in the future, creatures from ancient mythology battle for survival in a world that seeks to silence and destroy them” (ABC).

CLEVERMAN, based on an original concept by Ryan Griffen (directed by Wayne Blair and Leah Purcell), is an action-packed new Australian science-fiction drama re-imagining Aboriginal Dreamtime stories into a sci-fi/superhero narrative context. Season one has already been released, and you can watch season two for a limited time on ABC iView.

TV DRAMA: REDFERN NOW (2012 – 2015)
Six extraordinary stories, one unmissable series (ABC).

Redfern Now (directed by Rachel Perkins, Catriona McKenzie, Wayne Blair and Leah Purcell) is an Australian drama television series following the interwoven lives of people living in the Sydney suburb of Redfern. Produced by Blackfella Films, the series was written by Aboriginal Australian writers and has risen to high acclaim for its powerful storytelling. Find out more about Redfern Now here.

“One ambitious manager. Four unknown singers. The tour that put them on the charts wasn’t even on a map” (IMDB).

Based on a true story, Wayne Blair’s The Sapphires (2012) is a musical flick following four Aboriginal Australian women as they rise to stardom, forming a singing squad called ‘The Sapphires’. The cast features prominent Australian singer/actresses Jessica Mauboy, Deborah Mailman, Miranda Tapsell and Shari Sebbens.

Interested in catching more great films? Watch clips of other films by Aboriginal Australian film-makers here (Australian Screen).

Experience Digital Storytelling with Indigital

Check out Indigital – an Indigenous Augmented Reality App
In collaboration with Indigenous artists, elders and traditional owners, Indigital CEO and Cabrogal woman Mikaela Jade has recently launched the mobile app storytelling project, Indigital.

This new augmented reality app allows you to interactively experience Aboriginal storytelling, with stories sourced with permission from traditional owners living in the Kakadu area (see more: ABC NEWS).

Seek out traditional and contemporary Art in your city

Badu Gili – First Nations Art on the Sydney Opera House (NSW)
All year
Catch Badu Gili, a spectacular free year-round display of First Nations animation and artwork illuminating the sails of the Sydney Opera House each night at sunset and 7pm.

Tarnanthi Art Fair (SA)
October to January
The Tarnanthi Art Fair showcases “over 1,000 artists at exhibitions at the Art Gallery of South Australia, and more than 20 partner venues”, featuring “over 40 art centres and individual artists from across the country” (Tarnanthi).

Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (QLD) 
12-14 July
CIAF is Australia’s premier Indigenous art fair featuring the fashion, art, dance and theatrical works of Queensland Indigenous artists.
Blak Markers Barangaroo (NSW)
2 September
Local marketplace held regularly at Barangaroo and Bare Island, featuring artworks and artisan products from Aboriginal creators.
Find art in your local streets
Wandering around your local area, look out for street art, hidden creative events or artistic lane-way installations – you might stumble upon transformed spaces much like Jason Wing’s beautiful illuminated painted laneway artwork, In Between Two Worlds (2013). If you’re in Haymarket, Sydney, why not seek it out?

Seek out Contemporary & Traditional Art Exhibitions

Most state art galleries hold visual art collections representing Aboriginal artists from communities across Australia, which showcase painting (both traditional and contemporary), photography, weaving, bark-paintings, sculpture, and multimedia works by Aboriginal artists.
Keep your eye out for contemporary and traditional Aboriginal art exhibitions running at your state gallery, as well as in galleries run by local Australian Aboriginal people.

Workshops and Education

Many cultural centres run workshops, arts and language classes, talks and other educational programs. Do your research – ask around for local cultural centres near you, run and managed by local Aboriginal people.