9 unmissable First Nations events and festivals in 2023

2022 saw the return of some of Australia’s most spectacular cultural festivals and events and in 2023 they are set to be even bigger and better! To make sure you don’t miss out on some of this year’s most incredible opportunities to experience and celebrate First Nations cultures, we’ve put together a list of 9 amazing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander events to mark on your calendar.

1. Cairns Indigenous Art Fair

13 – 16 July 2023
Gimuy-walubarra yidi Country, Cairns, QLD

Pic courtesy of the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair.

The famous Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (CIAF) is an unmissable four-day celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts and cultures. Boasting a rich diversity of exhibitions and activities, Australia’s premier art fair invites guests to wander spectacular contemporary exhibitions, get hands-on with workshops and demonstrations and witness moving performances of music and dance. A wealth of beautiful and authentic works of art are available in the fair’s ethical marketplace and cover an incredible range of mediums. From magnificent bespoke pieces to stunning giftware, there is something for every art and culture aficionado!

Stay nearby: Shangri-La The Marina, Cairns.

Learn more about the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair.

2. Nayri Niara Good Spirit Festival

April 2023 (exact dates TBC)
palawa Country, lunawuni / Bruny Island, TAS

Pic courtesy of Nayri Niara.

Set amid the rugged beauty of lunawuni (Bruny Island), Tasmania, the Nayri Niara Good Spirit Festival is an intimate gathering, championing the power of shared knowledge through music, ceremony, art and conversation. Over three spectacular days beneath the mild April sun, people from all walks of life and many different cultures come together to honour ancient traditions and grow through the cross-cultural creation of new practices and understandings. This magnificent celebration of cultures and humanity features a brilliant array of areas and activities to inspire your creativity. Based at the foot of sacred and majestic Mount Manganna (named after the yellow crest black cockatoos) is the Manganna Stage; the heart and soul of the festival. At this main stage, be transported by the energy of live music, the moving words of speakers and the First Nations wisdoms learnt through workshops. Beyond the Manganna Stage lies a host of opportunities to listen, learn and connect.

Stay nearby: Bruny Island Escapes and Hotel Bruny, Bruny Island.

Learn more about the Nayri Niara Good Spirit Festival.

3. Garma

July-August 2023 (exact dates TBC)
Yolngu Country, Arnhem Land, NT (north-east of Kakadu)

Garma is dubbed Australia’s premier Indigenous event for a reason! Over four unforgettable days, revel in the opportunity to engage in a lively celebration of the Yolngu people’s culture, arts and ceremonies through an eclectic host of events and activities. Based in beautiful, remote Arnhem Land, the festival welcomes all people to learn, engage and share in the celebrations of traditions to deepen understandings between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

Stay nearby: Garma is a camping event, and all guests are provided with a four-person tent and an air mattress. If you’re thinking of extending your time in the NT, why not add on a side trip to Kakadu?

Learn more about Garma

4. Bangarra at Sydney Opera House

June-July 2023 (exact dates TBC)
Gadigal Country, Sydney, NSW

Pic courtesy of Daniel Boud.

Each year, Australia’s premier First Nations dance company, Bangarra Dance Theatre, takes to the stage of the magnificent Sydney Opera House to delight audiences with breathtaking performances. Held annually throughout June and July, this incredible opportunity to witness First Nations storytelling through performative art is certainly one to mark on the calendar for 2023. Inspired by over 65,000 years of cultures, Bangarra’s past performances have depicted stories from across the continent through a spectacular blend of traditional and contemporary movement. Delivering mesmerising performances year on year, each showcase celebrates many different interpretations of First Nations storytelling, using light, sound and wardrobe to take you on a journey through time, Country and the Dreaming.

Stay nearby: Rydges Sydney Harbour, Sydney.

Learn more about Bangarra.

5. Wakaj – A Traditional Corroboree Experience

Thursday evenings throughout 2023
Broome, WA

Pic courtesy of Mabu Buru Tours.

Corroborees are deeply spiritual, personal traditions practised by some First Nations cultures to share spirituality, stories and practices. Through Wakaj (the coming together of family), Johani Mamid and Mervyn Mulardy offer guests a unique opportunity to witness an interpretation of a traditional corroboree in a culturally safe, fun and respectful environment.

Seated around a campfire amid beautiful natural bushland, watch as Pintirri Dancers perform beneath the golden hues of sunset. A beautifully sensory experience, you’ll hear the sounds of traditional Karajarri songs echoing throughout your surrounds, feel the warmth of a well-stoked fire and taste damper with local honey as you watch on. The stories, songs and dances you’ll witness throughout your Wakaj experience will teach you about the Dreaming and meaningfully deepen your understanding of Karajarri and Yawuru cultures.

Stay nearby: Oaks Cable Beach Resort, Broome.

Learn more about Wakaj.

6. Laura Quinkan Dance Festival

7 – 9 July 2023
Quinkan Country, Laura, QLD (west of Cooktown)

The three-day Laura Quinkan Indigenous Dance Festival brings together spectacular dance troupes from across Cape York and the Torres Strait Islands for an incredible showcase of cultures. Dance has been used by some of the world’s oldest living cultures as a means of storytelling over many thousands of years. The festival is meaningfully hosted in the culturally significant region of Laura, an important meeting place and home to some of the oldest and most spectacular rock art in the world. A phenomenal continuation of traditional practices and an opportunity to witness the sharing of stories through song and dance, this brilliant festival is not to be missed in 2023.

Stay nearby: The Laura Quinkan Dance Festival is a camping event, with a tent city and general campgrounds on site. If you’re thinking of extending your TNQ trip, check out Cooktown or Port Douglas.

Learn more about the Laura Quinkan Dance Festival.

7. Warakirri Dining Experience

Various dates throughout 2023
Gadigal Country, Sydney and Wiradjuri Country, Mudgee, NSW

Pic courtesy of Indigiearth Experiences.

Incredible food, beautiful performances, meaningful insights and time spent with friends – Indigiearth’s Warakirri Dining Experience truly offers it all. Returning in 2023, join Ngemba Weilwan woman Sharon Winsor for a magnificent evening that showcases aspects of First Nations cultures through sight, sound, taste and smell. Seated with new or old friends, indulge in an expertly curated, five-course degustation as you are taken on a sensory journey, transported by the sounds of beautiful cultural performances. Limited to 16 guests, these intimate evenings artfully showcase the beauty of First Nations cultures and native cuisine over four incredible hours.

Stay nearby: Harbour Rocks Hotel Sydney MGallery, Sydney or The Horatio – Suites & Motel, Mudgee.

Learn more about the Warakirri Dining Experience.

8. Karijini Experience

5 – 9 July 2023
Banjima Country, Karijini National Park, WA

Set in the gorgeous ancient landscape of the Banjima Homelands, the Karijini Experience offers five immersive days of enriching cultural experiences through the celebration of art, food and music on Country. Run by the Banjima Native Title Aboriginal Corporation, in 2019 the Karijini Experience hosted 98 artists across 57 individual events, showcasing the talents and cultures of 16 Aboriginal language groups. Make the most of your experience with a stay at the Karijini Eco Retreat – the perfect place to relax and unwind amid the beauty of the national park after a full day of singing, dancing and sharing stories.

Stay nearby: Karijini Eco Retreat, Karijini. You can book a stay on Wotif or Welcome to Country!

Learn more about the Karijini Experience.

9. National Indigenous Art Fair

1-2 July 2023
Gadigal Country, Sydney, NSW

Pic courtesy of the National Indigenous Art Fair and Cheryl Davison.

The National Indigenous Art Fair shines a spotlight on incredible and diverse First Nations art from across Australia. Held annually at the Overseas Passenger Terminal on Gadigal Country’s iconic Sydney Harbour, the fair brings together artists and art centres from remote communities, offering meaningful opportunities to learn the processes, stories and cultures that inspire each unique piece. A host of activities are available beyond the fair’s vibrant market stalls, including weaving circles, performances and cooking demonstrations, making it a fabulous weekend for the whole family.

Stay nearby: Rendezvous Sydney Hotel The Rocks, Sydney.

Learn more about the National Indigenous Art Fair.

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