The Garma Festival has begun in northeast Arnhem Land

The Garma Festival 2023 is a four-day festival of music, art, film, education, and political discussion.
what is garma festival 2023

The annual Garma festival has begun on Yolngu country in northeast Arnhem Land.

Garma is Australia’s largest First Nations gathering.

This is the first time the festival has been held since the death of legendary Yolngu elder Yunupingu, who started the festival with his brother in 1999.

What is the Garma Festival?

Garma is a Yolngu Matha word meaning ‘two-way learning’.

The Garma Festival, organised by the Yothu Yindi Foundation, is a four-day festival of music, art, film, education, and political discussion.

Yolngu leaders have a long history of political activism. In 1963, they sent a petition to the House of Representatives written on bark to oppose a decision to put a bauxite mine on their land, a significant early chapter in the land rights struggle.


This year’s festival is dedicated to Yunupingu, who died in April aged 74.

In a foreword to the festival’s official program, Chairman Djawa Yunupingu committed to “stay true to [Yunupingu’s] vision of Garma as a place where Australia comes together”.

Yunupingu was a key architect of the idea of an Indigenous Voice to Parliament, which will be put to a referendum later this year. Chairman Yunupingu said the Voice was “on all our minds… It is a moment in time that offers the promise
of a new world.”

PM to speak

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will speak at the festival, as he did last year.

This week, the Federal Government announced funding to establish the Garma Institute, a tertiary education institution dedicated to on-country learning.

Dutton declines

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has declined to attend for the second year in a row.

In Parliament earlier this week, Albanese challenged him to attend, suggesting he “needs to spend less time on his dirt unit [opposing the Voice] and more time in the red dirt”.

Dutton rejected the invitation, telling 2GB radio the festival was “a love-in for the yes advocates and proponents”. Dutton visited East Arnhem earlier this year.

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