Running for a second year, the Cooee Festival is coming to Emu Plains on January 26 to celebrate and showcase the oldest continuous living culture in the world.

Hosted by New South Wales Aboriginal Education Consultative Group Inc. (AECG) and Link-Up NSW Aboriginal Corporation, Cooee Festival will take place on Darug Country.

Link-Up NSW Acting CEO, Shaun Middlebrook, said the event is one of few in the Western Sydney area for the Aboriginal community on January 26.

“I think for us, particularly in Western Sydney, there are very few events that are available … on a day that is rather difficult for people, particularly in our community,” Middlebrook said.

“Having a festival in Western Sydney showcases the amount of culture and community connections that we have out here. It’s important for us, and it gives people a safe space to go on a day that is difficult.

“Showcasing our culture is so important on this particular day … we all have shared experiences and different views on things but coming together to showcase culture and being safe in that space, we can celebrate how far we have come as a community.”

Cooee Festival is a free event for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

“The message I’d like people to take away from it is whether you’re Aboriginal or non-Aboriginal, we need to celebrate culture and unity.”

“Australia Day is historically difficult for people and I think having that message on a day that is difficult, we are able to come together, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.

“We have a huge population of non-Aboriginal people who come along to Cooee because they understand the issues.”

After overwhelming support in 2019, the festival returns various activities and performers including, Archie Roach, Emma Donovan, The Merindas, Kevin Kropinyeri, Jarrod Hickling and Col Hardy.

“The day we got notified that Uncle Archie Roach was coming out and performing as our headliner … the entire office just exploded with joy and amazement. We have someone who has been through so much and who is willing to come out share his experiences and his story with Western Sydney.

“We’ve got cultural events, kids’ hubs, Elder tents, language classes, petting zoos … with native Australian wildlife, having that experience for people. It goes back to that safe space on that day, where we can celebrate our culture, have a good time. And who doesn’t love sitting around in the sun and having a good yarn?”

The Acting CEO is incredibly proud to be part of the team bringing Cooee to Western Sydney.

“It’s a great showcase, this isn’t about us making a statement. That isn’t what we are about, we’re about celebrating who we are, where we have come from and on the 26th of January this is an amazing event to hold.”

“More than anything else, I think that what makes us feel great about doing this, and speaking for the entire team, [is] the fact that this is our second year and the community support we’ve received and the performers coming along.

“All this cultural stuff we are putting on, when we announced we were doing it again, we had people approaching us saying, ‘We need to be a part of this’.”

“For me in my own identity, it cements everything I’ve always wanted to do in my career and in my community.”

“Putting on something like this, it’s almost the highlight of my career … doing something for the community is the end goal for me.”

“Making sure people aren’t only getting support out of the organisation, but also putting on events … it blows me away that we can pull this together and we can do this. We have an amazing team who are working so hard to pull this off.”

Cooee Festival will take place at Regatta Park at Emu Plains on January 26, 2020.

By Rachael Knowles