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Festival and Freedom Rides 50 years on

Source: Yabun Festival Facebook

by Mariana Podesta-Diverio

Sydney will welcome the new year with two Indigenous celebrations, the 13th annual Yabun music festival on Australia Day and a 50th anniversary reenactment of the Freedom Rides in February.

January 26 (Australia Day or Survival/Invasion Day) has dramatically different implications for the Indigenous community of Australia than it does for people who observe the day as a celebration of post-colonial, Anglo Australian culture.

The Yabun Festival, a celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, will be held on the land of the Gadigal people in Victoria Park. The title ‘Yabun’ is derived from the Gadigal language word meaning ‘music to a beat’.

Deputy Premier and Minister for Tourism and Major Events Troy Grant said the NSW Government was proud to support Yabun through the Destination NSW agency.

“Yabun is an important celebration of our Indigenous culture featuring an amazing line-up of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art, dance and music,” Mr Grant said.

This year also marks the 50-year anniversary of the Freedom Rides of 1965 led by activist group Student Action for Aborigines (SAFA), where a small group of students travelled to towns in rural NSW to increase awareness of the racial segregation and antagonism towards Indigenous people in these communities.

The University of Sydney Students’ Representative Council (USYD SRC) is organising the 50th anniversary rides in conjunction with the University of Sydney.

This year’s freedom rides aim to “promote engagement with, and increase awareness of, Indigenous communities in rural NSW.”

The bus will be stopping at Dubbo, Moree, Walgett, and Kempsey.

USYD SRC President Kyol Blakeney said that the Freedom Rides were the stepping stone towards breaking social barriers between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

“It allowed people in rural areas, as well as urban areas, to come to a stronger understanding of what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture is about,” Mr Blakeney said. “[they also] challenged the stereotypes surrounding the Indigenous population including disorganisation, laziness, and a low level of self-determination.”

“In an era of a conservative and harsh government, now is the time to stand together once again to ensure that our rights remain valid and the dignity of a proud people is upheld.” Mr Blakeney said.

Applications for the ten guest spots on the bus closed last Friday.

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