Barunga Festival is a must for anyone seeking an authentic Aboriginal cultural experience. An iconic family friendly event on the national festival calendar, Barunga boasts a long and proud tradition of celebrating Indigenous art, dance, music, sport and culture. This year is the 35th anniversary of the Barunga Statement and the event has been handed back to the Bagala Aboriginal Corporation.
Barunga is 80 kilometres southeast of Katherine. The Traditional Owners welcome you to camp and take part in a program of activities over the three-day long weekend in June each year. The road from Katherine to Barunga is sealed but you need to drive with caution as Central Arnhem Road is only single width and you need to veer onto the dirt when passing oncoming vehicles.
We spent 3 nights camping at Barunga to get the full festival experience. The amenities are basic but we found that the toilets and port-a-loos were clean and well maintained all weekend. We also found there was not many taps available to fill up water bottles, so take plenty of drinking water. If you like to shower when camping, it’s best to take your own camp shower or go for a dip in the local creek. There are no powered campsites available and generators are not permitted, but you can have a campfire. If you are not a keen camper, you may prefer to enjoy the festival for a day/evening and stay in accommodation in Katherine.
The local general store was well stocked with plenty of food available for purchase from several food venders. Some stalls were giving out free fruit and the kids loved the free hot chocolates from the ‘R U OK?’ stall - the coffee wasn’t bad either.
Our weekend was full of activities and experiences - it was not hard to find something for everyone and having two whole days to explore the festival meant we didn’t feel rushed.
I enjoyed strolling through the art market, watching the Bungul and Red Flag Dancers and the AFL was thrilling to watch too. My highlight was the Barunga Junior Guides Tour. The students of Barunga School take you around their wonderful community and show you this great land of theirs. The tour was $50 per adult (kids free) with proceeds going back into the school to help fund school trips and activities. My husband enjoyed the AFL, live music and just spending the weekend camping and experiencing new things with the kids.
My daughter’s highlight was meeting Justine Clarke and having her ‘Shordi Krik’ book signed. This book was written by students from Barunga School with Indigenous Literacy Foundation Lifetime Ambassador Justine Clarke, who is a regular visitor to Barunga. She also loved seeing where some of the Barrumbi Kids TV series was filmed and having one of the main characters Tomias played by Nick Bonson drop in on our Junior Guides Tour.
My son loved everything from watching the AFL, running around playing footy with his friends, exploring the creeks, having a go at spear throwing, watching the cheeky camp dogs, the colour run and making his way to the front of the crowd to watch the bands on the main stage.
Thank you for a wonderful weekend full of good times Barunga, we will most definitely be back again next year.
Written by Jacinta Stewart Community Contributor The Top Ender Magazine