Festival will return to its roots on Australia Day

CULTURAL: Gugabarrway Bidarray dancers David Carriage (front) and Steve Donovan perform at the launch of the Saltwater Freshwater Festival at the North Coast Regional Botanic Garden.
CULTURAL: Gugabarrway Bidarray dancers David Carriage (front) and Steve Donovan perform at the launch of the Saltwater Freshwater Festival at the North Coast Regional Botanic Garden.

SALTWATER Freshwater 2015 will see the popular free family festival returning to where it all began, Coffs Harbour's Regional Botanic Garden on Gumbaynggirr country, on January 26.

And this time the inclusive celebration of Aboriginal music, dance, food, yarns and art is here to stay, with festival organisers confirming at Thursday's launch that the event will remain based in Coffs Harbour for the next three years, a decision welcomed with open arms by Coffs Harbour Mayor Denise Knight, who attended the launch.

The 2015 festival will bring some of the biggest names in Aboriginal musical talent to visit Coffs Harbour for Australia Day 2015.

Headline act Archie Roach will be joined by acclaimed hip hop artist Briggs, rising star Radical Son, Gumbaynggirr soul songstress Emma Donovan with her band the PutBacks, all of whom are releasing new music, plus local Kalang band, DidJital.

The Festival has been nomadic since 2010, having been held at Port Macquarie, Taree and Kempsey.

Festival co-ordinator Kristen Collier said they had decided to stop in the one location because of the difficulties of moving each year.

"Most festivals have the luxury of the same site, supporters and sponsors," Ms Collier said. "We were looking for a bigger audience and to make this a regional flagship event, drawing everyone into Coffs Harbour and attracting national and international visitors."

The chairman of major sponsor Galambila Aboriginal Health Service, Reuben Robinson, paid tribute to the vision of Alison Page and the other founders of the Saltwater Freshwater Alliance.

He said Australia Day, often regarded by Aboriginal people as "invasion day,' was a chance to show everyone the strength and resilience of Aboriginal culture; remind people of all that was natural about Australia and its first people and move forward together.

"We have survived - and we will survive because our people tend to breed like rabbits," he said to laughter from the audience.

"We have a strong, vibrant culture and we will put it in everyone's face."

As well as presenting the best in national Aboriginal music, the Festival also showcases the culture of the four Aboriginal nations of the Mid North Coast Saltwater Freshwater Alliance region, from Coffs Harbour to Karuah - Gumbaynggirr, Biripi, Dunghutti and Worimi, with 75% of the 2015 Festival talent coming from this region.

A smoking ceremony, a welcome by Aboriginal Elder Uncle Mark Flanders and performances by the Gugabarrway Bidarray Dancers and cast members of the Coffs Harbour High School production of Garlambirla at the North Coast Regional Botanic Garden marked the launch of the January festival.

As well as music, the free festival will feature dance, story, crafts, language, art, ceremony, workshops and food from the heart of the Saltwater Freshwater communities.

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Topics:  australia day coffs harbour north coast regional botanic garden saltwater freshwater festival

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