A five-day cultural festival representing five of the Gunaikurnai west Victorian clan groups is set to kick off on Thursday with the aim to keep culture alive and thriving within the community.
Now in its second year, the Gunaikurnai Cultural Festival is an opportunity to bring together First Nations people to share their dances and stories with each other.
The event is set to be held on a traditional gathering place for the Brabralung, Brayakaulung, Brataualung, Tatungalung and Krautungalung people on Knob Reserve in Stratford, around 230 kilometres east of Melbourne.
Gunnai man Wayne Thorpe said the festival is all about restoring culture, with dance playing a prominent role over the five days.
“There’s a lot of dance groups out there that are wanting to get up and running but they really do need support to skill up to learn their language, song, story and dance and to have some guidance,” Mr Thorpe told NITV News.
“Here’s an opportunity for us to start to have regular gatherings so we can help that happening.”
Mr Thorpe said the presence of dance at the festival is especially of importance to the local Elders.
“Some of them missed out on learning dance during mission days, so it’s fantastic for them to have the opportunity to see that our culture is reviving and we are able to restore [it] and they are a great part of it,” he said.
“To have our Elders present is something that a lot of our young dancers find a lot of pride in.”
There is expected to be around 7 dance groups from across the five regions as well as guest performances by First Nations dance groups from New South Wales and Queensland.
Organised by the Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation (GLAWAC), Mr Thorpe said he hopes to make the festival a monthly gathering.
“There’s no set place to learn our culture so here is an opportunity to do that,” Mr Thorpe said, who is the cultural project officer at GLAWAC.
Other cultural activities people can participate in include emu egg carving, basket weaving and traditional games.
Gunnai woman Alice Pepper heads one of the dance groups - Watbalimba - performing in the festival. She said dance plays a vital role for younger generations connecting with their culture.
“[The festival] is to really strengthen our cultural connection on country… to have these kinds of things on country and regular gatherings is good for our future generations to do,” she said. “It builds confidence up in our younger people, each year they are going to learn different things.”
“I am very, very honoured to be a part of this big event that will bring so many people together.”
Ms Pepper said festivals like these will build the confidence of younger generations to be able to “stand up and practice and live their culture anywhere”.
- The festival begins on November 30 and goes until December 1.