The Garma Experience

Held at the Gulkula site on Arnhem Land and hosted by traditional land owners the Yolngu people, Garma was a once off experience of a mini immersion, to meet the local people that live on country along with meeting like-minded people and businesses from around Australia working in the space of Aboriginal rights, employment, health and education. Held over 4 days, guests have a chance to attend key forums based on education, land rights, economic development, health and youth. Each forum offered great examples of how their organisation, school or local community group are having successes in these areas and the learnings that they have made along the way. There are also exhibitions of traditional dance and song, jewellery making, basket weaving, art and cinema, along with poetry readings, astronomy tours and campfire yarning.  Learning from the locals about hunting and gathering, song and dance, it is a safe place to explore the culture of Yolngu people and be involved in some of their traditional practices such as dance and song. With English sometimes being their 2nd or 3rd language, it was also a great way to build my confidence in conversing with Traditional groups and working to understand each other without relying purely on language.


One of the key forums that stood out for me was the youth forum. This was a separate dedicated forum to the main forums of Garma and was where students from schools all over Australia participated in getting together and talking about their experiences, build on their confidence, learn about culture and work together on their ideas of a reconciliation journey. At the end of the 4 days, the group then presented to the main cohort of Garma, to talk about their experience. This was such a positive presentation from a panel of Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal youth from all over Australia and the world, where they talked about their support systems, peers, education around Aboriginal history that they now study and their futures and how excited they are. Diversity is celebrated within our youth and will push the reconciliation journey, whilst learning from each other and exploring the land that we have grown up on. This was such an excellent outcome from the experience and so energising to hear how passionate these youth are, the goals and garma-fb-official-3ambitions that they have and how inclusive and forward thinking the next generation is. Given that this is the main demographic that Nudge works with- Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal youth, it was refreshing to hear their voices, opinions and positive stories of their journey so far and the journey they are looking to go on. Usually I work with Elders in community which can be tough as they may have had previous negative experiences with people working on country and minimal to no local employment outcomes. This history is carried to the conversation for new projects, and can make the discussion difficult to progress as the trust is not there. The presentation and enthusiasm from the Youth at Garma showed me how positive and exciting the future is and that positive change is underfoot in the Aboriginal employment space.


‘Culture is a two way business, not a one way business, as that is where the learnings fail’


garma-fb-official-2-3Some further key messages I took from the celebration were that not one size fits all
and we need to always remember this and keep it in focus. From the different presentations from different groups all over Australia, what works in one community will not work in another as they are their own community, they have their own needs and we need to make sure that this is something that is worked with, rather than against. I believe that our community engagement is strong in this area, as it is all about consultation with the Traditional land owners and the community, what works with education and employment in the south will not work the same way in the north of WA. There are many factors that will always contribute to making a trainee/apprentice or employee be successful in their role and it is only through the support as a community and an organisation that we can make it work.

Garma was an amazing experience.  I got to meet some energising people working in this space, plus got to connect with country and make some wonderful Yolngu friends who were so welcoming and inclusive of us visitors. It is a unique experience that only a few every year get to be a part of and I am thankful that I was one of those for 2016.




Photo credit to the official Garma Facebook page

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