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Toward a truthful and hopeful national identity

CAMPERDOWN: January 26. Yabun is upbeat, inspiring, empowering, confronting – a proud celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures held on Gadigal Country in Victoria Park. Yabun celebrates cultural survival and resistance, strength and creativity. This year’s theme, “Spirit of Survival”, paid homage to Survival Day and the first Day of Mourning protests in 1938.

 

Thelma Plum Yabun Festival headliner. Photo: Andrew Collis
Thelma Plum Yabun Festival headliner. Photo: Andrew Collis

The festival’s contribution toward holding and making space for a truthful and hopeful national identity cannot be underestimated. A water-and-fire sunset ceremony on Friday January 25 was held at La Perouse where, in the 1990s, early Survival Day events were held.

Saturday’s event brought together people of all ages – speakers, stallholders, sportspeople and artists, dancers and singers. In the context of painful and persistent colonial violence, facilitators and MCs honoured the sacrifice, leadership and hard work of many.

Elders were acknowledged and shown hospitality throughout the day at the Elders Tent. Children enjoyed arts and crafts activities in the Jarjums Zone hosted by Aunty Treena Cutmore. Performers Shakaya, Isaiah and Thelma Plum gave passionate performances from the Main Stage.

Isaiah rocks the Main Stage at Yabun. Photo: Andrew Collis

Isaiah rocks the Main Stage at Yabun. Photo: Andrew Collis

Corroboree Ground, hosted by Joe Williams and Medika Thorpe, showcased the vibrancy and diversity of dance and cultural expression within the Sydney region. Talented dance groups included Buuja Buuja, Wiritjirbin, the Gili and Wagana dancers. The afternoon saw innovative cultural exchange creations featuring Mixed Mobs and Durrunu Miru, Matthew Doyle and Warren Foster.

At the Speak Out Tent (Dhuulu Yala – “Talking Straight”), discussions involved personal stories from aunties and uncles about the Stolen Generation, as well as youth dealing with forced removal from family and community. The afternoon session on NSW legislation of adoption without consent was facilitated by ABSEC (Aboriginal Child, Family and Community Care State Secretariat for NSW).

The Young, Black and Deadly Hub, sponsored by the University of Sydney, Nura Gili, AFTRS and the YBD program, saw various activities from 10am to 4pm. An Indigenous Digital Excellence Interactive Virtual Reality Experience was hosted by the NCIE (National Centre of Indigenous Excellence). Sports clinics run by the NRL and AFL taught fundamental skills in Rugby League and Australian Rules Football. Music development workshops were led by YBD mentors Honey Piri and Dwayne Broome.

Main Stage performers included the Green Hand Band, Rebecca Hatch, the Last Kinection, Sonboy, Kutcha Edwards and Roger Knox. Shakaya (Simone Stacey alongside Naomi Wenitong of the Last Kinection) provided dazzling urban pop and R&B. Isaiah (Firebrace) of X Factor and Eurovision renown, is a proud Yorta Yorta and Gunditjmara recording artist. His soulful set brought just the right coolness to a hot afternoon.

Gamilaraay singer-songwriter Thelma Plum, who released her debut EP Rosie in 2013, followed by Monster in 2014, has been touring recently in support of her single “Clumsy Love”, the first cut from a debut album recorded in New York and slated for release in 2019. Her set included well-crafted songs about heartbreak, difficult choices and self-empowerment.

Festival partners, organisers and participants deserve the ongoing support and gratitude of the wider community. Thanks to City of Sydney, NSW Aboriginal Land Council, Nura Gili, University of Sydney, NCIE, AFTRS Indigenous, Koori Radio, Koori Mail and NITV, the Good Crew, and all the staff at Gadigal Information Service.

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