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Working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

Garma 2019 - APS delegates on 'Pathways to our future'

Garma 2019 - APS delegates on 'Pathways to our future'

Indigenous Affairs Culture and Capability
Friday, 23 August 2019

National Indigenous Australians Agency

A group of 31 people sit or stand. In the foreground is a campfire.

At this year’s Garma Festival, a delegation of senior Australian Public Service leaders attended to learn more about Yolngu culture, reconciliation and listen to the issues that impact Aboriginal people.

The Garma Festival started as a community gathering in 1999. In recent years it has become a major event, bringing together community, business and political leaders from around the world for the 4-day cultural festival.

Along with employees of the National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA), the government delegation included the NZ High Commissioner, the Hon. Dame Annette King and representatives from a broad range of policy areas including education, employment, Native Title, environment, heritage and the arts.

The opening ceremony saw the first Indigenous Cabinet Minister and Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon Ken Wyatt MP, walking through the stringy bark ahead of the Yolngu Gumatj ceremonial dancers on the sacred red earth of Gulkula to meet living national treasure, Dr Galarrwuy Yunupingu AM.

An image of toddler Joevhan Burarrwanga, dressed in traditional paint, performing in the opening ceremony captured the audience’s (and media) attention.

With the Festival theme being Garma’lili manapanmirri dhukarryarrany’dhun gudarr’wu’ (‘Pathways to our future’), the image of Joevhan dancing with his father, brother and uncles provided a powerful image for the forum policy discussions held during the Festival.

Delegates attended policy discussions on education, economic development and health and wellbeing.

At the end of each day, the delegates met beside the glow of Garma’s campfires to discuss how we could work together to improve the way government partners with community to achieve real outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The message from the future leaders at the Garma Youth Forum was clear - ‘It's time to think differently’.

This message resonated with the delegates. Returning to Canberra they were challenged to think in new ways about how to implement policies and programs, with community as the central focus.

Organised by the Yothu Yindi Foundation and hosted by the Yolngu people in North East Arnhem Land the Garma Festival of Traditional Culture was held from 2-5 August 2019.

Forum presentations are available to watch on the Garma Festival YouTube page and you can read the Voices Panel presentation by Minister Wyatt.