University of Melbourne supports truth telling at 20th Garma Festival

Image of Senior Gupauyngu man Eddie William Gumbula in ceremonial attire.
Senior Gupauyngu man Eddie William Gumbula performs the Sugarman dreaming story during the closing ceremony of the 2017 Garma Festival in north-east Arnhem Land. Image: Melanie Faith Dove / Yothu Yindi Foundation

University of Melbourne senior staff will this weekend take part in the Garma Festival in Arnhem Land as part of the University’s commitment to national reconciliation with Indigenous Australians.

University leaders including Provost Mark Considine and Associate Provost Marcia Langton will attend, alongside members of the University community involved in teaching and research in the region.

Professor Langton said the University has a long relationship with the Yolngu people in Northeast Arnhem Land, formalised in 2015 through a partnership with the Yothu Yindi Foundation (YYF).

“Through our researchers and students, the University has contributed to health, education, cultural heritage, land management and linguistics in the region,” Professor Langton said.

“We have a partnership with the YYF that aims to build cooperation.

“Building strong reciprocal relationships with Indigenous Australia also contributes to our capacity to build a reconciliation culture for all Australians, supporting Indigenous development and contributing to the wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

Garma Festival is a gathering of 2500 political and business leaders from across the globe, aimed at improving Indigenous disadvantage through engagement with business, politics, academia and other leaders of society.

The University has sponsored the Garma Festival for the past two years and for the next three years will be the principal sponsor of Garma and its Key Forum, which is described as a global platform for discussion, direction setting and collaboration for the advancement of Yolngu and Indigenous Australians.

This will be the 20th annual Garma Festival and the official theme this year is ‘Yuwalk Lakaranga’ – truth-telling.

“I’m looking forward to the session on truth-telling, in a forum where Aboriginal people can just stand up and tell the truth,” Professor Langton said.

“I want to hear what people have to say about what happened to them. Most of Aboriginal history has not been told yet. This is an opportunity for that.”

Also attending this year’s Garma Festival are University leaders including Pro Vice Chancellor (Indigenous) Shaun Ewen, Melbourne Law School Dean Pip Nicholson and Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences Dean Shitij Kapur.

“This is a unique intensive cultural immersion for University senior leadership and academic staff and it will help deepen their understanding of current Indigenous economic, social and cultural challenges,” Professor Langton said.