When the Prime Minister came to Arnhem Land to meet with Indigenous leaders, he was continuing a tradition that has lasted for thousands of years at ancient place called Gulkula.
- Garma has been held at Gulkula every year for centuries
- Thousands of people, including international delegates, attend the Garma festival
- Garma is back after a COVID-19-induced hiatus
Anthony Albanese made headlines at this year’s Garma festival by meeting with Yolgnu leaders, pleading to adopt the Uluṟu Statement from the Heart in full and to hold a referendum on the proposed Voice to Parliament.
Garma is held at Gulkula every year and this weekends festival has been one of many gatherings held at the site over the centuries.
Gumatj leader Balupalu Yunupingu said Gulkula had always been a place for people from different tribes to come together and learn new perspectives.
“This place is special to us because Ganbulapula, the spirit man, created this place and named the place Gulkula,” he said.
“It’s a place of teaching.”
Gulkula is surrounded by stringy trees and Yolgnu ancestor Ganbulapula is said to have shooed the bees away from the site to find honey.
Modernizing Yolgnu traditions
It’s an area of learning for the Yolgnu people, and it was the site of the first Garma in 1999.
Balupalu’s brother, Djawa Yunupingu, said it was “just like a bush camp.”
“We looked at Garma and said, ‘Why don’t we do a festival out here?'”
He says Garma is a continuation of the Yolgnu traditions, “but in a modern way”.
Now thousands of people from around the country, including international delegates, attend the Garma festival, which is considered a key event on the political calendar.
“In the olden days, going back 50,000 years ago, people had Garma to bring the tribes together, whether it was a morning ceremony or some kind of ritual or sorry business,” he said
“Whatever issues we want to bring up we talk about them.”
Garma is back for the first time since 2019, after a COVID-19-enforced hiatus, and the Yunupingus say there’s been plenty of excitement leading up to this year’s festival.
“This Garma is different. We are being friendly. Everyone’s shaking hands,” Balupalu Yunupingu said.
“It’s great you know.”
It is hoped Garma will continue to grow every year.
“I’d like to see more people out here, maybe an extension of the days we have here,” Djawa Yunupingu said.
“The land were on now is Gumatj country. It’s always been Gumatj country since time began.”