Glen Innes to host Indigenous festival

Bob Blair performs a traditional Indigenous dance outside Gawura gallery in Glen Innes.
Bob Blair performs a traditional Indigenous dance outside Gawura gallery in Glen Innes.

The home of the Celtic festival is set to host a celebration of another culture, with planning already underway for a Festival of Australia's First Nations.

The event, penciled in for September 2021, will draw in five Indigenous nations from the New England region, including Glen Innes' Ngarabul nation.

The event will feature traditional Indigenous dancing, stories, art, song and language and bring in Aboriginal people from as far as Tamworth and Kempsey as far as Tenterfield.

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"It's an idea that had been rattling around in my head for a few years," she said.

"I really wanted to learn about Aboriginal culture but I wanted to learn about it in a more engaging way. It seemed like a topic that people really struggled to talk about."

She plans the event to imitate Sydney's Sydney's Yabun festival or Byron Bay's Boomerang festival, with a similar format to the Celtic festival.

'It's music, it's performance, art, it'll be market stalls, it'll be workshops.

"It's really up to the local nations which stories they wish to share."

Bob Blair, Lloyd Hornsb, Margaret Whitfield, Shane Leavy, Margaret Patterson and Chris Fyfe sign off on the plan for a Northern Highlands First Nations Festival.

Bob Blair, Lloyd Hornsb, Margaret Whitfield, Shane Leavy, Margaret Patterson and Chris Fyfe sign off on the plan for a Northern Highlands First Nations Festival.

Planning for the festival kicked off this week, with a meeting of local elders on Monday signing off on the plan.

Wendy Hornsby was there. The Indigenous art gallery owner said the festival will be just as much a learning experience for Indigenous Australians as for white ones.

"A lot of Aboriginal people don't understand their culture," she said.

"When you come out of the Stolen Generations, language has been suppressed and culture has been suppressed, with children taken away from their parents.

"We're coming out of that era where people have been denied their culture. A lot of Aboriginal people want to know about it as well."

The four day event is still very much in the planning phase, but it will feature a dawn "commemoration" - Wendy compares it to an Anzac service for the victims of colonialism.

"After that kick your heels up we're going to have a party and share our culture," she said.

She said studies show that most foreign tourists to Australia want an Indigenous experience of some sort, meaning the festival could draw local and international interest to the region.

The organisers hope to bring in the Ngarbal, Anaiwan, Kamilaroi, Dunguddy and Bundjalung Aboriginal Nations from the region around Glen Innes.