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Garma theme looks to the future

Callan Morse -

A post-referendum future has been encapsulated in the theme for this year’s Garma Festival, which was announced by the Yothu Yindi Foundation on Monday.

‘Gurtha-Wuma Worrk-gu’, a Yolngu phrase signifying fire, strength and renewal is the theme for the 24th annual event, set to take place in northeast Arnhem Land in early August.

In announcing the theme, the Yothu Yindi Foundation said Fire. Strength. Renewal. represents key concepts in Yolngu culture.

"Gurtha (fire) is a central concept in the Yolngu world; it is the foundation of life that gives strength, energy, and power. It is in the people, and is of the land,” the Yothu Yindi Foundation said.

“Worrk-gu (renewal) is in the life of the land and the people. It is the goodness that arises in the country after fire has burnt the land and cleansing rains have come.”

The Festival, which hosted Prime Minister Anthony Albanese during his campaign in support of Indigenous Voice to Parliament, will be the first since last October’s defeated referendum.

Yothu Yindi Foundation chairman, Djawa Yunupingu said just as the land springs back to life after fire, stronger and better than before, Yolngu people are also prepared for the future after the referendum on an Indigenous Voice to Parliament.  

'Fire. Strength. Renewal.' has been announced as the 2024 Garma Festival theme. (Image: Garma Festival/Facebook)

“Many Australians are still hurting after the vote, which followed years of hard work by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders,” Mr Yunupingu said.

“We have felt the fire of Australians who didn’t approve of our proposals, who rejected us with their own intensity. That is now in the past and we choose to look to the future.

“A new generation is rising now to take on the challenges ahead, and these young men and women are now our leaders, looking up for us to find the future we need as a nation.”

Held at Gulkula, a Gumatj ceremonial site approximately 40 kilometres from the town of Nhulunbuy on the Gove peninsula in northeast Arnhem Land, Garma Festival sees 2500 attendees flock to the four-day celebration of Yolngu art, culture, dance, ceremony and song, the event often sold out months in advance.

Incoming Garma Festival Director, Joel Ulbricht said the theme was guiding the development of this year’s programming. 

“The resilience and strength encapsulated in the concept of Gurtha-Wuma Worrk-gu will be reflected in the Festival, from the Youth Forum and the Key Forum to the different creative and artistic components that make Garma so special,” Mr Ulbricht said.

Garma 2024 is scheduled for 2-5 August at the Gulkula ceremonial grounds in the Northern Territory’s northeast Arnhem Land.

Tickets are still available for local residents and for schools participating in the Youth Forum.

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