A vibrant celebration of culture, sport, music and life will return to the Northern Territory this weekend. Barunga Festival, one of Australia’s most important cultural events, is an immersive experience for both First Nations and non-First Nations people, connecting them with Australia’s rich cultural history.

Just eighty kilometres southeast of Katherine, Barunga Festival is estimated to host over four thousand people from across the top end and beyond. The annual celebration will span three days and will recognise and honour the United Nations International Year of Indigenous Languages.

Barunga Festival Co-ordinator, Brad Firebrace, says that the festival is an opportunity for First Nations people and travellers to experience the culture within community life.

“Barunga has a reputation of being a really good family-friendly festival—people love to come and experience it as a whole,” Mr Firebrace said.

“With the younger generation, when they see the people that they look up to not only up on stage but doing traditional dancing, it’s inspiring them to keep that culture alive within their community.”

“That’s one of the biggest thrills we get out of it to keep culture alive and put it on showcase for the world to see. It’s not only our culture but it’s Australian culture to experience and be proud of as well.”

The festival will host an array of musicians including Mambali Band, Nabarlek Band, Wagilak and the Australian Art Orchestra, Billy Jack, Justine Clarke, Wire MC, Mick Coates, Archer and Tasman Keith.

Gumbaynggirr rapper, Tasman Keith, his father Wire MC and grandfather Billy Jack, will bring three generations of Gumbaynggirr men to the stage.

Tasman Keith is honoured to be sharing the stage with his family.

“Family is everything to me. I grew up around it with my dad and my grandfather. Since I’ve started making moves they come up all the time. They tell me I’ve got my father’s face. People that I wouldn’t expect. Now that I’m on a similar path as them, I can see how hard they would’ve worked, and I’m proud to step up with them,” he said.

Mr Firebrace said bringing this family to the stage will deepen the experience for all involved.

“Family is everything. It’s how you learn, how you grow. I think to have that on stage during the festival is something so special,” he said.

Barunga will also welcome Taiwanese singer Sang Mei-Chuan from the Paiwan tribe. Originally forbidden to speak her mother’s tongue, Ms Mei-Chuan now teaches children traditional Paiwan language and songs.

“Music is of great importance to the Taiwan First Nations Peoples, especially to the Paiwan tribe. Music and songs not only record our daily lifestyles and express emotions but also record our histories, beliefs and cultural identity,” said Ms Mei-Chuan.

In the theme of the UN’s International Year of Indigenous Language, Barunga will also host language and bush medicine workshops from a local women’s group. These workshops will be extended to both First Nations and non-First Nation people.

Sport will also be on showcase with an overload of teams from the top end and parts of WA set to play at the festival.

Barunga Festival will take place from Friday 7th of June to Sunday 9th of June and is a drug and alcohol-free event.

By Rachael Knowles