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Arnhem Land festival returns after two-year COVID hiatus

Jarred Cross -

After a two-year absence, Yothu Yindi Foundation's Garma Festival is back to celebrate the expression of traditional Yolngu custom and knowledge.

The 22nd instalment returns to Gulkana, a ceremonial site on the Top End's Gove Peninsula after much anticipation and cancellations due to COVID19.

The festival will run over four days from Friday, July 29 to Monday, August 1.

YYF chief executive Denise Bowden said the event reconnected family and friends to celebrate the foundation's education work in Arnhem land.

"Our art centres are bursting at the seams with new work to share with our guests, and local bands and musicians are jumping at the chance to get back onstage and perform again," she said.

The theme for 2022 is nhanga ngathilyurra, meaning to look ahead or towards the future.

Members of the Gumatj clan performing bunggul. image: Peter Eve

"In the spirit of the theme, we're now looking ahead to completing the final stages of the education pipeline â€" a residential secondary school and a tertiary facility," Ms Bowden said.

"So much has changed in the community since Garma 2019.

"The aged care facility for which we lobbied over many years is now a reality, while the Dhupuma Barker junior school in Gunyangara will celebrate its first birthday soon, and is achieving some remarkable early success."

The NT chief health officer, National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre and local Aboriginal medical service Miwatj health are working alongside YYF to ensure a COVID-safe event.

"Community safety remains our number one priority and a key factor in our planning," Ms Bowden said.

Guests are required to be up-to-date with vaccinations and provide a negative RAT before arriving.

Tickets can be purchased online from April 19.

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