On January 26, Survival Day, over 10,000 people united at Victoria Park to celebrate Australia’s Aboriginal heritage. Yabun is the biggest one-day Aboriginal festival in Australia and it proved the best place to be for the national holiday.
“The whole Sydney community was invited,” said Bianca Williams of Gadigal Information Service. Yabun aims “to say to the rest of the world that Aboriginal culture is surviving … We’re heading even stronger into the future.”
Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore attended to pay her respects to Australia’s First Peoples. Quoting Paulo Coelho, she said: “It’s what you do in the present that will redeem the past and thereby change the future.
Victoria Park buzzed with friendly faces, cultural pride, and, of course, the music. Kids got artsy in the Jarjums Tent and played in the Corroboree Sand. There was rock climbing and jumping castles. People gathered amid stalls and in the Speak Out Tent to discuss Aboriginal Australia’s future. The food was truly multicultural and I got the chance to try crocodile.
Yabun translates to “music with a beat”, and in this regard, did not disappoint. Families and friends gathered to witness some of the greatest Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander upcoming and established talents. It wasn’t your typical perfectly timed concert with hyperventilating fans and idolised celebrities. The line-up ran half an hour late and the wind knocked things over but it didn’t matter. It was perfectly imperfect. It was the feeling of community.
On the Main Stage, MCs Constantina Bush and Redfern Now actor, Alec Doomadgee, provided the perfect mix of comedy and seriousness. Musical highlights included JPoint’s soulful hip hop, the elegant Thelma Plum with an indie voice that felt like floating, Dizzy Doolan’s feminine ferocity and seeing Vic Simms and the All Star Band of 50-somethings rocking out like teenagers. But regardless of what musical genre tickles your fancy, it was the heart of the festival that proved most captivating.
The crowd favourite was undeniably Archie Roach – not just because of his ARIA awards and iconic deep voice but more because he embodies perfectly the Indigenous survival story and the meaning of Yabun. When his voice dripped with regret and longing as he sang “Old Mission Road”, you saw him as a 3-year-old Aboriginal boy, stolen from his parents. And when he got the crowd dancing to his upbeat, soulful new release, “Song to Sing”, you saw a man who had survived and inspired. Roach told the crowd: “No matter how insurmountable things might seem, we’re going to rise above it.”
Yabun Festival 2013 was a day of exceptional talent, entertainment and sharing. Most of all, it was a day of remembrance and hope.