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Byron Shire
April 23, 2021

Aboriginal festival falls foul of two-event policy

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Prominent Aboriginal actor, director and artistic director Rhoda Roberts is the latest in a series of high-profile people to take Byron Shire Council (BSC) to task over its attempt to enshrine in its Local Environment Plan a ban on more than two major music events per year.

The deadline for residents’ submissions regarding the policy is today.

Ms Roberts, a Bunjalung woman who was recently appointed head of indigenous programming at Sydney Opera House, was previously artistic director of the Dreaming Festival, which she founded in 1995 and which ran at Woodfordia until 2009.

She had been in discussions with Bluesfest director Peter Noble about reviving the festival in a new format. Produced by the Jimmy Little Foundation, Boomerang was to be a festival of indigenous music and culture aiming to reach a mass market of up to 30,000 people. Mr Noble had offered the Bluesfest site as a venue.

But the event would be disallowed by BSC under its draft policy of allowing only two major music events (more than 6,000 attendees per year), which would be Bluesfest and Splendour.

‘Peter has been one of the most loyal advocates of Aboriginal culture nationally and particularly for the Bundjalung of the region. We have had a number of discussions regarding my model of the Dreaming under the new title Boomerang,’ Ms Roberts said.

‘Not only has Peter given so much of his time to take us across the site and assist with our plans, he has even gone to the point of developing the DA for council. The man is a legend and we could not have got this far with the proposal and scope of the event without his enormous experience, wisdom of the industry and indeed the region of the north coast and basically his heartfelt support and passion for music and for providing a voice for the local mob,’ she added.

Ms Roberts has thrown down the gauntlet to BSC to allow the festival or be tarnished with the brush of opposing an indigenous event on Bunjalung land.

‘The basic logistics and undertaking of an event is costly and if the capacity is limited to 5000, then it’s just not a feasible business. Once again the dominant society, now be it the Local Byron Shire Council, is severing opportunities for a cultural event that not only celebrates and showcases diversity, increases employment outcomes and ownership of an event but, most importantly, is one of the few platforms that actually works at reconciliation through an on-the-ground Aboriginal experience.

‘So we all need to unite and make our voice heard. It’s simply not acceptable,’ she said.

Since the beginning of the week, Bluesfest has collected more than 7000 objections to the draft policy on its website. People wishing to object to the ban can access the submission at http://www.bluesfest.com.au.

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  1. What is Rhonda going on about! Firstly, what part did Noble play in holding the Dreaming in conjunction with Spendour? So why does she go on about Noble and Blues Fest? Next: Splendour and Dreaming were conjoined into ONE festival last time (and time before?). So why does she say the Dreaming can’t be held? Is Rhonda unaware of the successful efforts of CONOS over the last 20 to preserve the incredible Aboriginal heritage of the Yelgun site (proposed Splendor site)? Lastly: Echo, what are you doing saying “people who wish to OBJECT to the ban …” should go to Blues Fest website…. What should those supporting the ban do !!!!! Is this even handed? Of course not. Poor journalism. Poor statement by Rhonda (and disappointing from an indigenous perspective, though not unexpected from one involved in her arts field).

  2. As usual the aboriginal people are exploited to achieve the gaol of large festival companies. It will not be long or the council will be acused of racism for not allowing large and frequent festivals.


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