Held on Stradbroke Island, Island Vibes Festival is fast becoming a yearly mecca for reggae enthusiasts, including many from the NSW north coast.
It attracted around 4,000 punters and world-class musicians last week, but this time there was an activist edge, a traditional elder spoke publicly at the festival against the Queensland government’s attempt to extend sand mining on Stradbroke Island.
‘I have avoided making public comments’, said Quandamoooka Elder Joan Hendricks, ‘because for the last 30 years I have been working on reconciliation’.
Aunty Joan says her people have been engaged in a 17-year High Court battle for recognition as traditional owners of Stradbroke Island, which is known by them as Minjerribah.
‘The court awarded us Native Title and we negotiated an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) with the Queensland government in 2011,’ she said.
‘The ILUA gave us custodianship of the land, dedicated 80 per cent of the island to national park, and committed to end sand mining in 2019.
‘This agreement is being over-ridden by the current Queensland government as it seeks to extend sand mining to 2030. Sand mining has already destroyed 30 per cent of our island. We have another battle on our hands.’
It was a speech that continues reggae’s tradition as a vehicle for political uprising.
Drummer Erik Adams from the band, The Link, says reggae is connected to the earth through its rhythm and freedom from oppression through its lyrics.
‘There is a massive resurgence in reggae, particularly among the youth,’ Adams said.
‘They are identifying with the cause.’
And national dancehall champion and festival performer Nadiah Idris agrees.
She told Echonetdaily that ‘reggae has its roots in the struggle of the Jamaican people for independence.’
Ms Hendricks ended with: ‘Sand mining is our past, but not our future. You will go home soon and I hope you have seen this island and take some understanding of what we are fighting for. I am not asking you, I am begging you to listen.’
Bob Marley once sang ‘How many rivers do we have to cross before we can talk to the boss? All that we got, it seems, we have lost’.
Australia’s indigenous people’s struggle against white European oppression continues in 2013.