Australia in spirit and heart

THE Coffs Coast community has recognised the nation's oldest culture on Australia Day through the Saltwater Freshwater Festival.

The day of celebration pays tribute to the music, art and culture of the Gumbaynggirr, Biripi, Dunghutti and Worimi nations.

Staged as an Australia Day event for the past five years the festival has returned to the North Coast Botanic Garden in Coffs Harbour, aiming to distance negativity surrounding the history of Australia Day and 'invasion day' connotations by sharing the region's Aboriginal culture with the wider community.

"Saltwater Freshwater celebrates survival, diversity and pride," NSW Aboriginal Lands councillor for Mid-North Coast Peter Smith said.

"It's a great opportunity for non-Aboriginal people to celebrate the strength of our culture.

"It's self-determination, it's a celebration of survival, diversity and pride.


The headline act was well-known Aboriginal musician Archie Roach, while a host of talented performers shared the stages including the Birpai dancers, the Hand and Donovan family bands, the Matty Devitt Band, Nancy Bates and Ducki Dennis.

Given the sense of community inclusion the event has fostered between the Aboriginal and non Aboriginal communities on Australia Day in recent years many have asked could the Coffs Harbour model be followed in other communities?

It comes as the nation debates whether Australia Day could be moved to another date on the calendar that unlike January 26 would not be insensitive as a celebration to Aboriginal Australians.

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