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AIATSIS at Garma 2023

Nhamirri! Hello in Yolngu! Gulkula, a significant ceremonial site, echoed with the sound of the yidaki, beckoning us to come together as a united nation for the annual Garma Festival in Arnhem Land. It was a vibrant celebration where we immersed ourselves in the unique cultural experience that unfolded before us. Gulkula became our home for four unforgettable days, leaving an indelible mark on our hearts. 
This year, our hearts were heavy as we mourned the loss of the great Yunupingu. We honoured and remembered him throughout the festival through his ongoing legacy in education and we learned about the progress at the Dhupuma Barker School and the developments at the Garma Institute, and we found solace in following Yunupingu's leadership, which resonated throughout the festival. We came together through shared acknowledgment that ancient and ancestral knowledge of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples can coexist harmoniously with modern brilliance. This vision became the theme for Garma this year: Djambatj, symbolising brilliance, skill, and excellence. 
We witnessed Djambatj in the captivating beauty of Yolngu culture, the rhythmic movements of the ceremonies, and the precision of the artists and weavers. Our time on Country was filled with meaningful interactions that embodied this moment of perfection. Djambatj also thrived in the passionate advocacy and enlightening debates in the key forums, resonating across the Gulkula ceremonial site. We were united, working towards a common goal - the essence of Djambatj. 
During our brief but enriching time at Garma, we met renowned figures from Arnhem Land, such as the Maymurus, Marawilis, Marikas, Ganambarrs, Gurriwiwis, and the Yunupingus. Arnhem Land is home to countless clans, each contributing to the vibrant tapestry of the Yolngu nation. Every clan has its structure, constitution, land, and ceremony; all interconnected through the gurrutu, the Yolngu kinship system. The wisdom of the Dillak elders guides this corner of the world, leading and nurturing communities across the lands. 

'Immersed in the cultural celebration, our hearts were forever marked by this extraordinary experience. Amidst our grief for the great Yunupingu, his enduring educational legacy and advancements at Dhupuma Barker School and the Garma Institute provided solace to many present at the festival. Yolngu culture's captivating beauty, the weavers' meticulous artistry, and the profound connections with Country truly embodied Djambatj. The fervent advocacy and insightful debates in the key forums united us all in pursuit of a shared vision. Meeting esteemed figures from Arnhem Land and forming connections with Yolngu communities in diverse towns further enriched our journey. Garma 2023 has etched an everlasting impression on us all, leaving us eagerly anticipating the thrill of Garma 2024.' - Leonard Hill, CEO, AIATSIS. 

The AIATSIS team also had the joy of connecting with the Yolngu people and communities from various towns throughout Arnhem Land, including Maningrida, Milingimbi, Ramingining, Gapuwiyak, Yirrkala, Galiwinku, and homelands like Biranybirany, Gurrumurru, Bukudal, Nyinyikay, Dhalinybuy, Gan Gan, Garrthalala, and Baniyala. These places not only hold ceremonial knowledge but are also the dwelling places of our revered elders. We pay tribute to the Dilak and acknowledge all the wise elders across Australia who have safeguarded our sacred knowledge and continue to pass it down through the generations, including to us. 
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Last updated: 19 September 2023