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The annual Garma Festival spans four days and combines Yolngu culture with political and policy debate. This report aims to capture the richness of the 2017 Garma Festival and to summarise the key themes, debates and learnings from the event. This report is structured into five sections that cover the key elements of the 2017 Garma Festival. 

The 2017 Garma Festival placed a high value on education with a bold vision to weave a national Indigenous education curriculum into the mainstream Western syllabus. The grounds of the bunggul again were an interesting place to watch and learn what that may look like, and the Yolngu matha, kinship and history classrooms showcased the type of content that might be included. 

Key Findings:

  • Relative to the Constitutional Reform conversation, Gumatj leader Ms Djapirri Mununggirritj touched on the importance of the bi-partisan approach required for Australia as a nation, the need for all to work together towards the common goal.
  • Ms June Oscar AO, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, emphasised the importance of a human rights based approach to education. 
  • Northern Territory Minister for Education Eva Lawler presented the NT Government’s agenda for improving education outcomes. This includes moving from the current focus on attendance, to how to successfully engage young people in school and providing “second chance” education options for young people not engaged in mainstream schooling.
  • The Education Fair, run on the first day of the Garma Festival at the Bunggul Grounds, provided a cultural curriculum for young people attending Garma. 160 young people from over 8 schools across the Northern Territory participated this year, including St Columbans based in QLD.
  • The Yothu Yindi Foundation’s rate of employment of local Yolngu people to deliver Garma sits at just over 241 employees in the Garma 2017 year. These learnings tell us that the success of the event is due to the support of our local community, and the core cultural activities being managed by the Yolngu experts themselves.
  • Guests at Garma learned about how Ranger groups, schools and local communities have partnered to deliver a culturally responsive curriculum that integrates Indigenous and Western knowledge systems in five Arnhem Land communities. The program aims to increase school attendance and completion rates, and successful transitions to further education and employment.
  • Awarding of 2017 Yolgnu Heroes Ms D. Gurruwiwi and Ms Djapirri Mununggiritj. 
  • Focus on Storytelling through art, cinema and music.



Related Information

Uluru Statement from the Heart

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