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Newcastle's biggest reconciliation event Ngarrama returns stronger than ever

David Prestipino -

Thousands are expected to sit and reflect on traditional life before 1788 as a popular reconciliation event returns to Newcastle on January 25.

Ngarrama has grown in popularity since its inception three years ago, and returns again to King Edward Park after two successful years, with a huge turnout expected at this year's event after the failed Voice to Parliament referendum in October.

Ngarrama celebrates the rich culture of all First Nations people, in particular the Awabakal and Worimi people, the Traditional Owners of the land upon which Newcastle now stands.

The free public event is hosted by the University of Newcastle in collaboration with Awabakal Ltd, the City of Newcastle and new 2024 partner NGM Group (Newcastle Greater Mutual Group) and creates meaningful reconciliation through truth-telling, performances, songs and historical acceptance.

Wiradjuri man and University of Newcastle Pro Vice-Chancellor of Indigenous Strategy and Leadership, Nathan Towney, said the event grew in popularity year on year.

"More than 4,000 people attended Mooloobinba (Newcastle) last year, and I'm proud to see this incredibly special night go from strength to strength," he said.

"This is an open invitation to connect to country and share in cultural knowledge, and I hope many more people can benefit from the safe space created by the University of Newcastle and our three deadly event partners."

The word Ngarrama translates to 'to sit, listen, and know', an embodiment of the event, which was now renowned as a night of reflection and celebration.

The premise of Ngarrama is for attendees to consider traditional life before 1788 and was inspired by Sydney's Vigil at Barangaroo.

The program includes a Welcome to Country, traditional dance, music, storytelling, and knowledge sharing, and feature performances from Ngiyampaa, Yuin and Gumbangirr renowned violinist, Eric Avery, as well as Torres Strait Islander dance group Mui Mui Bumer Gedlam, NITV's DanceRites 2023 winner.

Local theatre and puppetry company, Curious Legends, will bring First Nations stories to life, while the event will finish on a high when Wakagetti dance group hit the stage.

The premise of Ngarrama is to consider traditional life before 1788. (Image: University of Newcastle)

Awabakal Ltd CEO, Jason Smith, said he was proud to be part of Ngarrama for another year.

"Seeing people from all walks of life, young and old, come together to learn about our shared history is what makes this event so great," he said.

Newcastle Lord Mayor, Nuatali Nelmes, said the event had become an annual highlight of the town's progressive and inclusive community and cemented the town's long-standing support for reconciliation, truth-telling and "standing shoulder to shoulder with our Aboriginal community to enact positive change together".

"Newcastle was the first city to fly the Aboriginal flag over a civic building, the first local government authority in the region to support constitutional recognition for First Nations people, and this year our Guraki Aboriginal Advisory Committee ... will celebrate 25 years as the city's Aboriginal voice to Council," she said.

NGM group chief customer and digital innovation officer and RSP sponsor, James Cudmore, said it was a proud moment to be an event partner at Ngarrama.

"We feel honoured to support Ngarrama and promote reconciliation in an authentic and collaborative way," he said.

University of Newcastle Vice-Chancellor and Reconciliation Champion, Professor Alex Zelinsky, said Ngarrama would continue to raise First Nations voices and promote togetherness.

"Ngarrama 2024 will be yet another example of how everyone can be involved," he said.

The University of Newcastle celebrated 40 years of the Wollotuka Institute in 2023 and was recognised as a national leader in gender equity and Indigenous participation.

"I hope the entire community can join us at Ngarrama to learn and celebrate more than 60,000 years of history and culture," Professor Zelinsky said.

The event schedule can be found on the University of Newcastle website.

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