Checking Out The Barunga Festival
Located in the Barunga community in the Northern Territory of Australia with just a mere 350 residents, the Barunga Festival brings thousands of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous visitors to the area to learn, celebrate and enjoy the cultural side of Australia.
Up until this day I had personally not taken the time to properly immerse myself in the history and culture of my country. As an adult I really appreciated being able to take the time to engage and learn about the Indigenous people of Australia.
If you are not from Australia and are interested in those who lived here before the country was settled then you will want to visit the Barunga Festival.
What to do
If you clear your schedule on one of the days you can’t go past a Yidaki (didgeridoo) making and demonstration.You can be mentored and taught from a local Indigenous didgeridoo crafter who will take you from tree log to musical instrument – all made by your hand, quite the memorable gift to bring home.
There is also spear making and weaving workshops at the festival which means there is enough activities to keep you busy over the weekend to bring home the perfect souvenir.
If you want to immerse yourself and learn about the ancient traditions of the local people then make sure you check out the following events:
> Yidaki (didgeridoo) demonstration and competition
> Spear throwing competition
> Traditional dancing
> Local town tour by the school students of Barunga
What to eat:
It would not be a festival if there wasn’t great food and drink to consume. Wether you are after a kangaroo burger, a Greek gyro or even just a sausage sizzle you will find plenty of options here. To wash it all down you can’t go past Juice n Sorts for a giant ‘mellow-melon’ (watermelon, apple & lime) fresh juice.
If you are from Australia you are well aware of damper, but if you are a visitor or have never heard of this meal then you will certainly enjoy the tea and damper workshop. Made from flour, water and baking powder you then knead the ingredients into a bun, wrap it into tinfoil before placing it onto hot coals near the fire to bake. Our choice of spread was butter and jam, but you can easily substitute for sugar or Nutella.
Hearing the roaring sound of the didgeridoo must be heard in person to be properly appreciated. Throughout the day we walked past the main stage and music tent to check out artists from around the country, each with their own unique sound.
Once the sun goes down the party begins with live music on the main stage till early hours of the morning. However, please note that Barunga is a dry community so it’s the music and your dancing skills that will take you through the night.
English have their football, American’s have theirs too, but did you know there is Australian football or Aussie Rules as it’s known here? If you have a moment to pull a local away from cheering on their team you may just learn the rules like “why are there 3 goal posts?” and “why is he allowed to jump on the opposing teams back to catch the ball?”.
Where to stay
If you plan to stay in Barunga you wont find any hotels, motels or hostels, instead you can find camping spots at the festival (included in your entry ticket). The closest town is Katherine (about 80km) and Mataranka (about 83km) where you should find plenty of options for all budgets.
We stayed at the Djakanimba Pavilions in the Beswick community which was only 30km outside of the festival. They offered shared bathroom and kitchen facilities and a comfortable bed to lay our head after the days festivities. Being located so close to the festival we highly recommend heading here if you don’t plan to camp (which is an awesome option anyway).
When is the Festival
2016 was the 31st annual year that the Barunga Festival has been running for and is held every year on the Queen’s birthday long weekend (2016 was 10-12th of June to give you an idea of timing).
You can go to the Barunga Festival for $50AUD per adult for the entire weekend including camping.
Thanks to Tourism Northern Territory for kindly inviting Flying the Nest to experience the Barunga Festival. As always, all opinions are our own.