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December 9, 2021

Boomerang at Blues

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Archie Roach at Boomerang Festival
Archie Roach at Boomerang Festival

This year the good people of Bluesfest are introducing something very new and very special – a festival within a festival – with the Boomerang Festival and celebration of first nations setting up a precinct onsite.

Boomerang director Rhoda Roberts shared her vision for the precinct.

‘The idea is to move it into Bluesfest so we can get to that broader audience. The music will be embedded across the stages, but it’s at the precinct where you will be able to get to know blackfellas with weaving workshops for adults and kids, lots of talks; you can come along and catch some great talks and panel discussions from boat people to the next voices in comedy, and then we are focusing on the dance ground like a mini-corroborate, lots of workshops that are interactive – the precinct is about cultural traditions. It was such a wonderful event at the first Boomerang, but being within Bluesfest profiles it to a larger audience so we can build our brand and then we become our own brand later down the track.’

Boomerang director Rhoda Roberts

Located between Jambalya and The Crossroads stages, this is not a separate ghetto stage. Boomerang is part and parcel of the whole environment offering patrons a new depth of programming with insights into living legends such as Archie Roach.

‘We have a wonderful In Conversation with Archie, 25 years of Charcoal Lane. As Archie gets older he gets much more open; he shares stories from his life, from when he learnt piano and the stories about why he has written certain things.’

One of the key concepts for Roberts is that the talks and ideas at the Boomerang precinct offer ideas and views that aren’t heard in mainstream media.

‘The talks and ideas are levelled at the intervention and political discussions around the stories that affect all Australians,’ says Rhoda. ‘You don’t get to hear the Indigenous point of view on issues such as boat people. We have an Indigenous person from Manis Island who talks about what it is like there from a first nation point of view.’

Indigenous speakers address the big issues, sharing insights, concerns and wisdoms.

‘Owing to the education that has occurred over 30 years,’ says Rhoda, ‘we have all these young people who critically analyse things. You don’t just hear the rhetoric of ‘it’s our land’ – these are critical opinion pieces.

‘We have Nakkiha Lui; she writes for the Women’s Weekly – who’d have thunk it – an Aboriginal woman writing for the Weekly! She writes about the stories of young people inheriting climate change; we also have young environmentalist of the year, Amelia Telford, talking about The Seed, the climate-change program she has established from a first-nations perspective. These are voices we have never heard or rarely heard, plus of course we have our leaders in community.’

Rhoda believes Bluesfest is leading in the way it has incorporated and committed to Indigenous programming, rather than what she often sees as a ‘tokenisation’ of first-nation people. ‘Peter Noble dug into his own pocket to make Boomerang happen. How come Peter Noble is the only man in the country who said I am going to give you something to make it happen? What other festival has embedded Indigenous programming across their event? Every visitor to this country wants an Aboriginal experience, but only 27 per cent get it.’ It seems obvious to Roberts that Indigenous programming is not just good for community, and for the arts; it’s good for the economy.

Boomerang at Blues also creates an opportunity for people to learn the dances and the stories of where they live.

Arakwal Dancers at Boomerang Festival

‘It’s important to pass on the knowledge and exchange stories. The more people know about the place and the region, and the more you know the songline chant, the more you are going to appreciate it, and be aware of those stories and protect this country. We live here with a majority of people who care about the place. There has been a wonderful relationship of like-mindedness – many non-Indigenous people here have protected country – like the Tuntable Story.’

Most importantly, Rhoda believes events such as this offer the broader community a role in preserving story.

‘It’s about knowing the call – Jingiwali – you learnt that and you learnt the song, you can sing it up. It’s really important at a local level – we as a generation face what no other aboriginal people have faced before – we are the 1,500th generation of Bundjalung people and we are facing a time when the stories of those songlines across this country, our nations, when the old people are going and their stories are not being passed on – we are losing a library. It has never been more important to capture that and pass it on.’

So what is the story of this place? How was Bundjalung country found?

‘Three brothers came with their mother-in-law and they tried to get rid of her – she went off to get food and got lost, so they got back in the boats with wives and went to sea and she called them back and she called it up.

‘The waves raised up; one went north, one went west to Lismore and one went south – and thats how Bundjalung was found.

‘If you look at every bora ring that existed it faces southwest – ceremony grounds are prepared in August for when the winds come; the wind is women.

‘The dust is the women – I always think to the amazing dust storm in Sydney years ago that turned everything red, that’s the women saying, “Is what is happening? We need to gather.”

‘It’s time for a regathering of the clan, be they white, black, musicians or dancers. We are all getting together to exchange our knowledge,’ says Roberts.

Boomerang also launched a crowdfunding program last Friday at Harvest Cafe in Newrybar to assist with funding for the event. To contribute go to


For more information and tix to Bluesfest, go to bluesfest.com.au.



The dance program involves a series of performances, workshops, audience participation, community involvement and inter-generational and international exchanges through welcome and gifting ceremonies.


A collective of artists of indigenous Rotuman, Fijian and Pacific Island heritage whose work is part of their quest to retain traditional knowledge and skills and to gain more insight, depth and understanding of their heritage, but with a focus on creative freedom. Many of the projects initiated by the collective aims to recapture and revive ancient art forms and stories, and with this strong foundation, enable them to create innovative works with cultural integrity.


Jannawi Dance Theatre is a Sydney based dance company encompassing contemporary and traditional style from the Darug regions of the mountains to Arnhem Land in the north. Under the direction of Former Bangarra principle dancer and Choreographer Peta Strachan they have toured internationally and featured at the recent Commonwealth Games in Scotland.


The members of eXcelsior are of Aboriginal and Torres Straight Island descent. The clan groups they belong to range from North & Central Queensland, down to North & Central New South Wales. Debuting in February 2014, they have performed at Queensland Performing Arts Centre’s ‘Clancestry’,  Sydney Opera House’s Asian Football Cup draw, and opening for the Chooky Dancers show Djuki Mala at the Judith Wright Centre.


Under the direction of Bangarra performer Djakapurra Munyarryun the dance is a two-way experience. Linking Western and Yolŋu cultures, and knowledge together through dance or Bungull and Manikay songs that share the ideas and the philosophy of country and culture and how our culture and napaki (non-Indigenous) should live together. This diverse group represent the clans of the Dhalinbuy region in North East Arnhem land and have toured the globe with their performances and Yidaki playing.  Featuring members of contemporary band East Journey, this displays the magic of intergenerational exchange and connections through dance and music.


An absolute hit at Boomerang Festival 2013, these impressive dancers are from Boigu Island, located in the top Western part of the Torres Strait and the most northerly inhabited island of Australia separating Cape York Peninsula form the island of New Guinea. The performers share their traditional songs and dances that have been passed down from generation to generation based on the everyday life of island stories.


Byron Bay’s local Indigenous dance group and representative of Bundjalung land, the Arakwal dancers welcome Bluesfest patrons to country at the Opening Ceremony every year. The Bundjalung of Byron Bay Aboriginal Corporation (Arakwal) does fantastic work to educate locals and visitors alike, and keep local stories alive through educational programs and various artistic activities.


Through a series of panel discussions and ‘in conversations’, our Talks and Ideas program will cover a broad range of topics and current issues relating to first nations globally.

ARCHIE ROACH: 25 years of Charcoal Lane’

A Bundjalung / Gunditjmara man, Archie is one of Australia’s beloved, respected and admired singer/songwriters with a voice and sensibility that is this country’s most important song line.

 A venerable and dignified performer, he captured the hearts and minds of a nation in 1990 with Charcoal Lane and the landmark song ‘Took the Children Away’. 25 years on, and now with a new album and show ‘Into the Bloodstream’, he has made a triumphant return from incredible adversity and personal pain, bold enough to come back to the stage and the spotlight and tell us what he has learned.

TENZIN CHOEGYAL: ‘Music making of the displaced’

In 1997, Tenzin Choegyal came to Australia with little more than a bag, his Dranyen, and a voice full of passion for Tibet.  Over the years, Tenzin has created a successful international career as a musician, playing at such prestigious events as the WOMAD festival and several Concerts for Tibet at Carnegie Hall, New York.

In 2009 Tenzin founded the annual Festival of Tibet which showcases Tibetan culture through music, film, art and discussion.  Tenzin was musical director for the Asia Pacific Screen Awards in 2011 and 2013, and has written and performed soundtracks for numerous TV shows, films and documentaries.

GETANO BANN: ‘Issues affecting island communities’

As a singer, song writer, story teller, registered music therapist, for Getano Bann, music, dance, storytelling and humour were an influential and integral part of his childhood, growing up in an extended Torres Strait Islander Family. Of Scottish and Torres Strait Islander descent, Getano began his musical apprenticeship amongst the mangroves and the creek beds, daydreaming, creating poems, melodies and songs which were to form his first compositions.

As a music therapist Getano works with children on the streets, in drug rehabilitation and in detention centres, and is passionate about the power of music and the arts in healing process.

SHARI SEBBENS: ‘The New Black Voice’

A NIDA graduate from the Jabirr Jabirr / Bardi Peoples, Sebbens, is one of six children, born and raised in Darwin. She featured in the feature film The Sapphires and is a regular on a number of television series including the award winning Redfern Now, The Gods of Wheat Street, and the new comedy series 8MMM. A well-known theatre performer, she recently appeared in the Sydney theatre production The Battle of Waterloo and the Belvoir street production of Radiance.

NAKKIAH LUI: ‘The New Black Voice’

With Gamilaroi Torres Strait Islander heritage Nakkiah Lui is one of Australia’s exciting new playwrights. In the short space of her 25 years, she has studied abroad, all but finished a law degree, and had a playwright residency at Belvoir St Theatre. The Inaugural winner of The Dreaming Award national arts prize, and Belvoir’s Balnaves Indigenous Playwright Award in 2012, she went on to write and perform in the production To Kill the Messenger.

More recently she was commissioned as one of the writers for series 1&2 of ABC TV ‘s production Black Comedy .


A covered, private space where traditional healing takes place. Patrons will have the opportunity to receive this sacred and powerful healing via same-day bookings at the venue.


Under the guidance of healer Christine Bullock , New Zealands Rongoā Māori is the traditional healing system of Māori. It focuses on the oral transmission of knowledge, diversity of practice and the spiritual dimension of health. Rongoā Māori encompasses herbal remedies, physical therapies and spiritual healing.

More information on the Boomerang program and its feature performers and participants can be found at www.boomerangfestival.com.au

The Boomerang playing schedule will be released in the new year.

To purchase tickets visit www.bluesfest.com.au

For media enquiries please contact

Monique Hartman on +61 2 6685 8310 or [email protected]

Boomerang Festival would like to thank Bluesfest and The Australia Council for the Arts for their generous support.




Boomerang Festival 2013
Boomerang Festival 2013


“This festival matters. There is nothing comparable in Australia”

– Hon. Tony Burke, MP

Australia Council for the Arts recently reported that:

·         92% of Australians agree that Indigenous arts are an important part of Australia’s culture

·         64% of Australians have a strong or growing interest in Indigenous arts

·         24% of Australians attended Indigenous arts in the previous year

(Source Australia Council for the Arts, 2015)

 Boomerang offers the solution to this discrepancy between people interested in engaging, and not knowing how to access Aboriginal culture.

Bluesfest, as Boomerang’s only non-government partner, invites you to join them as leaders in positive change in our local, state, and national cultural landscape.

We invite you to lead the change we want and need to see in our national narrative.

“The Boomerang precinct at Bluesfest is all about cherishing culture and ending the disparity between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australia.  This Intergenerational exchange will allow our loyal audiences a unique hands-on engagement and experience while allowing the Boomerang Festival to build audiences and find support as a future stand-alone festival”

– Peter Noble, Festival Director, Bluesfest

Without adequate funding, Boomerang must raise funds to grow into the stand alone festival, and a major contributor to the North NSW cultural landscape, tourism and economy, as well as a landmark event for Australia.

NSW has the largest population of Aboriginal Australians than any other state in the country, and less fiscal support than other regions in the country. Ownership & pro-activeness with art & culture is key to empowerment and inclusion in our diverse society.

On Friday 4th December 2015, Boomerang Festival is launching a Crowd Funding Campaign, where for 90 days, we will be raising money to contribute to the quality programming of the 2016 precinct, and investing the festival’s growth for future years.

Crowd funding packages range from $100 to $7,000, all offering wonderful cultural gifts and experiences, thanks to the generous support of organisations including:

–          Bluesfest

–          Harvest Café

–          Arakwal Aborignal Corporation

–          The Farm

–          The Three Blue Ducks

–          Clayton Donavon & The Jaaning Tree

–          Australian Good Food Guide

–          The Music

–          Virgin Australia

–          The Byron @ Byron Resort & Spa

Interested investors can donate at http://igg.me/at/boomerangfestival

 More information available at www.boomerangfestival.com.au

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