Here are five things to know about one of Australia’s most important cultural festivals:
1. Garma literally means saltwater and freshwater mixing together and moving onwards. This is the concept behind the Garma festival – a cultural exchange of knowledge and ideas. Each year 2,500 business, political, academic and community leaders come together at the festival and exchange ideas, while also celebrating and preserving cultural traditions.
2. The Garma festival is held at Gulkula in northeast Arnhem Land, about 1,000km from Darwin in Australia’s Northern Territory. The Arnhem Land region includes nearly 100,000km2 of Aboriginal owned land, and is one of Australia’s last strongholds of traditional Aboriginal culture. It has been home to the Yolngu people for at least 50 thousand years. Today, the Yolngu clans live throughout Arnhem Land much like they always have – hunting fish, bush animals and seasonal bush foods.
3. The local Yolngu people have been at the forefront of the struggle for Aboriginal land rights in Australia. In 1963, following a unilateral government decision to excise a part of their land for a bauxite mine, the Yolngu people from Yirrkala sent a petition, written on bark, to the Australian House of Representatives. The bark petition attracted international attention, and now hangs in Parliament House as a testament to the Yolngu role in the birth of the Aboriginal land rights movement.