Sydney Festival has launched for another year and hosts the strongest First Nations program in its history.

Aiming to explore, deepen and contribute to conversations around the 250th anniversary of Captain Cook’s landing, the festival promotes a diverse range of First Nations voices, stories and identities.

Festival Director and proud Noonuccal Nuugi man, Wesley Enoch said it’s an opportunity for Sydney to ask questions and think deeply about what they want as a community.

“For me, a festival is an opportunity to reflect and to ask questions, and reflect in terms of what we want from our leaders and what we want in our policies,” Enoch said.

Enoch acknowledged the huge array of First Nations talent which is heavily present in the festival’s Blak Out program.

“When you see the people of Sydney really embrace First Nations storytelling … it’s really important – having whitefellas and blackfellas coming together … You get the sense of optimism and that times have changed and it gives you a sense of hope,” Enoch said.

“I celebrate any Indigenous show you can get into any festival … but when you have the diversity of voice and [the] range we have in our Blak Out program, you don’t see the diversity and the extraordinary variety of different perspectives on the same issues.”

Blak Out hosts shows such as Black Cockatoo which is the highest selling show of the festival and tells the story of the first Aboriginal cricket team to travel to the UK in 1886.

Popular romantic comedy, Black Ties, will showcase a cast including Uncle Jack Charles, Mark Coles Smith, Lisa Maza, and Brady Peeti.

The Sydney Festival will welcome the world premiere of The Visitors alongside favourite Bran Nue Dae. Three decades after its premiere, Sydney Festival will see the beloved Ernie Dingo take on the role of Uncle Tadpole.

The Festival will also include Procession which will see a smoking ceremony, dance, and song led by Aboriginal Elders to pay homage to processions like the first Day of Mourning meeting in 1938.

Following Procession will be The Vigil, where people will gather to experience live performances by Indigenous artists that reflect on our history, who we are now and who we will become as a country.

The Vigil this year will have an extra element of the need to reflect, understand and remember First Nations experience, and in particular within these devastating fires across the country. I’ve been heartened by the conversation on cultural burning, that this has gone hand in hand with planning for the future. Cultural burning is an important element in the discussion of recovery for our country,” Enoch said.

“That is what The Vigil is trying to say as well, think about all of the knowledge we have as First Nations Peoples of this country and the rest of the country needs to tap into our knowledge – value it and value us in that process.”

“When we start to talk about a Voice to Parliament, we aren’t just talking about it for our own sake, we’re talking about a voice to the people because we understand this country … we play a vital role in the future so you have to work with us.”

Sydney Festival is also releasing various events to help support communities facing fires. One includes the Sydney Festival Bushfire Appeal Concert which hosts renowned Aboriginal artist Dan Sultan at the Metro Theatre on January 11.

Sydney Festival is on until Sunday January 26.

By Rachael Knowles