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Yabun Festival looks toward Australia’s future

Rachael Knowles -

Gather the Aunties, grab the kids and get on your deadliest shirt because Yabun Festival is back! One of the biggest events in the Koori calendar, the festival is coming back for its 17th year.

Yabun is stepping forward into the future and celebrating 250 years of survival and resistance.

Hosted by Gadigal Information Service and supported by the City of Sydney, Yabun brings mob from across the state to Gadigal Country in celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and community.

Gadigal Information Service Acting CEO, Tim Leha said Yabun has grown in its 17 years to become an important event.

"Yabun comes from Gadigal and means 'music to a beat' ... It's grown to become an important and meaningful place, not just for our Indigenous communities but for our allies as well, to gather on January 26," he said.

"The festival, in a way, [has] inherited ... the Survival Day concerts that came before it. We were a part of the 1988 protests, it's a part of that heritage.

"January 26 means a lot of different things to our communities. Whether you see it as a day of mourning, or a day of commemoration, or if you see it as Survival or Invasion Day â€" our festival, I feel, has a way of creating that culturally appropriate and safe space where everyone can come together."

Leha noted that whilst Yabun acknowledges the anniversary of Cook, the festival isn't solely focused on that â€" but rather looks to the future.

"Looking at 2020, we had two main choices ... the Cook response, or instead we be motivated by 2020 and the idea of vision.

"Particularly visions of the future, and so I guess for me, although I feel it is important that there is a First Nations response to the anniversary of Cook. On some level, it is another place where the agenda is being set for us really and we are just responding.

"I'm more interested in looking ahead. Looking to the future, what I like about this is getting to think about things like, what if we did achieve self-determination? What would that look like, if we got all those things we are fighting for?"

"In the [more than] 17 years we've been around, it is a significant event on the calendar. It's that question, how can we live up to what we have done before? And how can we build upon that?"

The festival will see headline acts such as Dan Sultan, Shellie Morris, Buddy Knox, Philly and Kobie Dee.

Along with over 100 stallholders, the festival will also host the Speak Out tent which offers Indigenous academic, activist and advocate speakers as well as dance performances on the theme of 'fire and water' by communities across NSW at the Corroboree Ground.

"I hope to challenge the people that come to be torn between wanting to be there to see music, going to listen at the Speak Out tent, or going at the Corroboree Ground. We have people like Oliver Costello from the Firesticks Alliance, we've invited Bruce Shillingsworth ... to talk about water.

"We have Alwyn Doolan who was involved in the Nation Dance last year who will be talking about the importance of relearning and practicing culture and we'll have people talking about the Cook response as well, from the Australian museum â€" especially with all the plans they have in response to the anniversary."

Leha said the Gadigal welcome the recent decisions of various councils within and around Sydney supporting Yabun on January 26.

"Yabun is a space for everyone who is of the like-mind and is in that spirit. It is a space for our mob and for our allies. Regarding changing the date, Gadigal welcomes other members of the community to consider that date change and the moves from the inner west council, it's definitely something we welcome.

"At the end of the day, we hope that everyone that comes along ... feels that it is an exciting, welcoming, innovative space. Everyone can hang out, with their mates or the Aunties and enjoy it."

Yabun Festival is an all ages, free event that will take place at Victoria Park, Camperdown between 11am and 7pm on January 26.

By Rachael Knowles

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