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Barunga Festival

A unique all-female band from Arnhem Land will be a highlight at this year’s historic Barunga Festival.

By Tamara Howie

This year the festival marks 30 years since Bob Hawke called for a treaty between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians after being presented with the Barunga Statement. 

The all-Indigenous music line-up features plenty of Territory favourites, including Lonely Boys and Saltwater Band, to complement the sport and cultural program over the long-weekend festival.

Among the performers is the unique Ripple Effect Band – one of the only all-female bands to come out of Arnhem Land.

Guitarist Joelene Lawrence says she’s nervous about performing at Barunga but is proud to be a role model for young female musicians in her community.

“I feel nervous because it’s my first time going out to Barunga,” she says.

“But we’re proud to play, and after that we go home and we’ll tell them and support the community.”

The Maningrida women first formed a band in high school in the mid-2000s before life got in the way of their music making.

Band member Jodie Kell returned to the community last year and the band re-formed with a more mature sound.

“It’s been so great playing together again – the level of excitement for all of us is really high,” she says.

“Stephanie said to me once, ‘I feel like I’ve been the walking dead and now I’m playing music again I feel alive’ – that’s how good it feels.”

The eight women share the singing and songwriting duties and sing in four different languages - kune, burarra, ndjébbana and na-Kara. 

Kell says the diversity of language is a strength of the group.

“Maningrida is one of the most multi-lingual places in the world and everyone speaks several  languages,” she says.

“One of the songs is about this language switching – it’s a real celebration of how great it is to be part of a culture that speaks all these languages.”

But the festival is more than just music – the action kicks off with footy from 5pm on Friday night, with sport and entertainment for the kids all weekend. 

Music Line up 
Saltwater Band
Shellie Morris
Lonely Boys
Dewayne Everettsmith
Ripple Effect
Tjupi Band
Black Rock Band

Fri 8 – Sun 10 Jun | Barunga Community | See the event listing                                                                                                                                                                                    

Image: Ripple Effect

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