THIS year’s Womin Djeka Balnarring Ngargee on the weekend was a family festival that celebrated First Peoples cultures and joined communities together.
The festival, held for the first time at the Emu Plains Reserve, Balnarring (Boon Wurrung Country), on Saturday 25 March, is in its sixth year and has continued its vision to be an event where the community can gather to share, begin conversations and walk with First Peoples.
The festival is presented by Balnarring Pre-School, joint winners of the 2021 Narragunnawali Award, which recognises outstanding reconciliation initiatives in schools and early learning centres.
First Peoples cultures are shared through music, dance, language, art, conversations and first-hand experiences. Organisers said the move to the larger venue had drawn more people.
Performances included headline act Isaiah Firebrace who, at 23, is one of the highest streamed First Nations artists in the world. His music has reached double platinum in Australia, platinum in Norway and Sweden and gold in Denmark, and has reached more than half a billion streams.
Firebrace is passionate about bringing awareness to Indigenous issues around Australia such as implementing more education about First Nations people and culture. From presenting his change.org petition at Parliament, to writing a sold out, number one children’s book about First-Nations culture, he is making an impact.
Also on stage was John Wayne Parsons, Robert K Champion, the Murrundaya Yepenga Dance Troupe, MPath Soul, Jalgany, Carissa Nyalu and Chaigen. The Willum Warrain Mega puppets told their story Yana Daadigan – Travel of the Spirit Animals.
Organisers said the opening Welcome to Country ensured those that attendees were Womin Djeka, welcoming words that mean “come, ask to come, and what is your intention … or your purpose”.
Workshops were popular, giving people the chance to appreciate First Peoples perspectives and share their experience of their land.
This year’s workshops focused on building Bundjil’s nest, painting on leaves, with ochre and on canvas, planting with Jaffa, Indigenous games, burning on kangaroo skins and a canvas, jewellery making, bush dye, Wayapa, “weaving, Yidaki meditation and Yarn, dance workshops and a First Peoples assembly.
First Peoples organisations, including VACCA, Willum Warrain, Nairm Marr Djambana, had stalls highlighting the work they do within the community.
N’arweet Dr Carolyn Briggs AM said these types of festivals were “our cultural ceremonies, and so it is an opportunity to all come together”.