Garma Festival

Garma is Australia's premier Indigenous event, a celebration of the cultural, artistic and ceremonial traditions of the Yolngu people.

Over four days in remote Arnhem Land, guests are immersed in the rich cultural heritage of Yolngu hosts, experiencing traditional miny'tji (art), ancient story-telling, manikay (song) and bunggul (dance). 

The over-riding artistic vision and cultural mission of Garma are to provide a contemporary environment for the expression and presentation of traditional Yolngu knowledge systems and customs and to share these practices in an authentic Yolngu setting. 

Garma is a window into a slice of life not often seen outside of remote communities, and guests often describe it as a life-altering experience. 

Garma has the ability to transcend colour, creed and race. Many of our supporters recognise how valuable these ingredients are in shaping the future of our nation. 

The Garma gathering brings together business leaders, international political leaders, intellectuals, academics and journalists to discuss the most pressing issues facing Australia.

The eclectic mix of Yothu Yindi Foundation stakeholders and Garma participants and guests, despite its very remote location, makes northeast Arnhem Land the place to be each year. 

In the afternoon the call of the yidaki (didjeridoo) announces the start of Garma, the largest and most vibrant annual celebration of Yolngu (Aboriginal people of northeast Arnhem Land) culture. The ancient sound of the Yidaki (didjeridoo) is a call to all people to come together in unity; to gather for the sharing of knowledge and culture; to learn from and listen to one another. 

Garma incorporates visual art, ancient storytelling, dance – including the famous nightly bunggul and music, forums and education and training programs relevant to cultural tourism, craft, governance and youth leadership.

It aims:

  • To provide contemporary environments and programs for the practice, preservation, maintenance and presentation of traditional knowledge systems and cultural traditions and practices, especially bunggul (traditional dance), Manikay (song), Miny' tji (art) and ceremony.
  • To share knowledge and culture, thereby fostering greater understanding between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
  • To develop economic opportunities for Yolngu through education, training, employment, enterprise and remote Indigenous community development.

Garma is hosted, coordinated and programmed by the Yothu Yindi Foundation, a not-for-profit Aboriginal corporation. 

All Garma registrations and revenues are directed into projects to support the Foundation and the Arnhem region.


Festival Features

Key Forum

The Key Forum is now a nationally significant gathering discussing a rolling set of themes. These themes will each year relate to activities currently topical at a national level and are endorsed by the Yothu Yindi Foundation’s Board of Directors, Festival Director and key advisers. The Key Forum attracts many community, corporate and government leaders, educators, students, and artists, and produces real and practical results. The Garma Lecture is the leading discussion that investigates issues relevant to the nation, on point and topical at the time Garma is held.

The Key Forum is founded on the experiences, the wisdom and the vision of Indigenous people from around Australia, mixed together with contributions from our political leaders and policymakers. Nearly all of the speakers and presenters speak from a lifetime of experiences – from high politics to grassroots activism; from how it is we get better roads, jobs and build an economy; to how we improve Indigenous education, to how we achieve Constitutional recognition of our First People in Australia. These are but a few of the issues that confront the audience at the Garma Key Form.

Here you will learn from our entrepreneurs, and from people who think deeply about Aboriginal aspirations for economic development. They may also be cultural leaders, professors & doctors of Indigenous culture or great singers and dancers who carry the ancestral law of this land. Here you will learn about the Aboriginal businesses and ventures, innovations in financial products for the Indigenous world, innovations in social enterprise, and outstanding partnerships between Aboriginal corporations large and small whose leaders are committed to achieving parity.

At the Garma Key Forum, unlike almost anywhere else, you have the chance to hear the voice, the views and the passion of Indigenous people without a barrier, or an overlay. People speak differently, and with more confidence when they speak on their own country. At Garma we have the opportunity to listen and to learn and then, over the course of the final two days, to craft a communiqué to the policymakers and politicians. And you have the chance to take away knowledge and this insight is guaranteed by the Yothu Yindi Foundation to stay with you for the rest of your life.

Youth Forum

There is an incredible movement amongst our youth today, proud and capable and willing to absorb, understand and develop avenues to improve the state of Indigenous disadvantage. Through their own engagement with forums, conferences and education they have fostered their talents, helped us to plan ahead by engaging with life and providing new platforms to voice their aspirations and opinions – a youth opinion that will influence a nation's future, together. The Youth Forum is a great opportunity to witness the impressive leadership capacity of the next generation.

The Youth Forum is, therefore, a mini-Garma in itself jam-packed with workshops for Indigenous and non-Indigenous students from across the nation-building confidence and knowledge within our future leaders of tomorrow. Garma will continue to bring together young Australians to nurture leadership, work and life-skills - to develop community leaders and assist in sharing and protecting stories, culture and knowledge. It is an energetic, exciting and uplifting melting pot with local elders and youth, community organisations and some of Australia’s leading musicians and writers collaborating together to share experiences and learn from one another.

The Garma Youth Forum provides four days of programmed activities and workshops. School students will participate in a broad range of activities, from mobile journalism, digital media, information sessions, social media tasks, songwriting workshops with talented artists, film and production sessions, and educational workshops designed for our young stars. Also included is a variety of physical activities to provide a team spirit and the Yolgnu Rapirri Rom smoking ceremony cleanses and clears the safe passage for all to make friendships of a lifetime.

Whilst the many workshops are specifically designed for our Youth Forum participants, this loud, vibrant and bustling sanctuary is open to all registered Garma guests wishing to hear the voice of the youth.

Evening Bunggul 

Traditional ceremonial dance is performed each day of Garma from 4 pm until sunset. In these highly significant traditional ceremonies, men, women and children alongside their families and clan groups perform Australia’s original dance, unique to the northeast Arnhem Land.

The senior holders of the Yolngu song lines share with Garma guest their stories of manikay (song) overlayed with the rhythm and of the clap stick. That this form of ceremonial expression should survive with such strength is a testament to the Yolngu people and their commitment to maintaining and preserving their culture and ways of life. It is truly a gift from Yolngu to all Australians that this precious Australian heritage continues to thrive within our modern nation. The bunggul is the major attraction of Garma and rates valuably in the arts scene across Australia. Quite simply put – the bunggul is breathtaking. All of this art and culture atop the spectacular Dhupuma plateau, overlooking the spectacular Arnhem coastline.


Cultural Workshops

Facilitated by a star-studded team of our Yolngu hosts, Garma cultural workshops are designed to give attendees the opportunity to appreciate some of the most unique traditional practices of Yolngu culture. All Garma guests will have an opportunity to spend two days with Yolngu families as we share a range of subject matters to choose from. Yolngu Matha language classes, education classes on kinship systems, healing through the yidaki and Yolngu creative writing workshops enable you to participate in what captures your personal interest.

Literally learn "on country whilst taking a bushwalk with a local ranger. Watch or perhaps try your hand at traditional pandanus basket weaving. Learn raark (cross-hatching) techniques during traditional painting workshops. Discover the sacred yidaki instrument (didjeridoo) or have a go at making a spear. Guests are reminded that traditionally, cultural activities will often fall into either men’s or women’s stream, please respect Yolngu protocol by only participating in gender-appropriate activities.

Musical Performances

Live performers provide guests with evening entertainment. We are thrilled to present four intriguing nights filled with exciting musical talents. The sounds echo across the Gulkula site and you will be drawn to the bunggul grounds to watch this visual splendour.

Indigenous Film Program

As the sun goes down over Gulkula a unique cinematic experience begins at Garma. The Garma Knowledge Centre is the venue to present the latest series of films produced by Indigenous people from Arnhem Land, Australia and the world. Evening screenings in the past have been provided by Blackfella Films, Message Sticks Indigenous Film Festival and Mulka Film Projects.

Gapan Gallery

The Gapan Gallery is an outdoor gathering of limited edition artworks within a grove of stringybark trees adjacent to the bunggul ground.

The Gapan Gallery art exhibition brings you face to face with some of the most highly respected Arnhem land Yolngu artists, who are on hand to share their influence and discuss their work exhibited within the Gapan open-air gallery space.


Exhibition Stalls 

By hosting an Expo Stall at Garma it is an excellent opportunity for organisations to market and promote their services to the greater Garma Audience. To host a stall please send your enquiry to

Around the Grounds

From fireside chats, astronomy, women's healing activities, poetry recitals, tai chi, team sports, free haircuts, collaborative art, Garma library, nightly cinema, cultural workshops where guests are able to stroll the event grounds to elect and mould their own personal Garma journey.

Don't forget to stop by the Garma merchandise shop, where you can take home some great local products while also investing back into the local community. 

Pack your bags and come enjoy the beauty of Australia’s Northern Territory bush.


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