Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Celebrating Aboriginal culture and Indigenous constitutional recognition

The Australian Government is providing a total of $90,000 to support this weekend’s Saltwater Freshwater Festival which will celebrate Indigenous culture and help build public awareness and community support for Indigenous constitutional recognition.

The Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, said the festival in Taree brings together people from across the north coast of New South Wales to celebrate Indigenous culture, skills, lifestyle and talents.

“The Australian Government is proud to again support such an important cultural festival, and has provided $40,000 to help attract its quality performers and market the event,” Ms Macklin said.

“The festival unites inland ‘freshwater’ communities with coastal ‘saltwater’ communities, and Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

“The previous two festivals attracted more than 10,000 people, 75 per cent of whom were non-Indigenous.

“Australia Day is a time for us to celebrate all our country has to offer and this festival is a great chance for families and the whole community to share in such a positive event.

“Activities include stalls for artists, businesses, caterers and not for profit organisations showcasing their products, professional and up-and-coming Indigenous artists and performers, children’s activities including traditional games and workshops covering weaving, dance and art.

“This year’s festival will also play a role in building momentum for a successful referendum to change the Constitution to recognise Indigenous peoples.

“The Australian Government provided $10 million to Reconciliation Australia to build public awareness and community support for Indigenous constitutional recognition, which has more than 125,000 supporters to date.

“The festival has received $50,000 of this funding, and will promote the importance of constitutional recognition through a panel discussion and conversations with prominent and local Indigenous and non-Indigenous people and role models.

“There will also be an information tent where people can sign up to support constitutional change, and people will have the chance to decorate a canoe which will be set afloat in the Manning River as part of the Festival closing ceremony,” Ms Macklin said.

The Saltwater Freshwater Arts Alliance Aboriginal Corporation, which runs the festival, is a key participant in the Many Rivers Regional Partnership Agreement, which aims to increase Indigenous employment and economic development in the region.

On top of the funding for the festival and campaign, the Government is also providing the Alliance with $55,000 over the next year for its own operations, as it creates jobs and business opportunities for Indigenous people and communities, establishes pathways to education and employment for trainees and employees and builds social inclusion and to help meet the goals of the Regional Partnership Agreement.

The Government has invested a further $55,000 for the Alliance to support local women artists through training and business development through its design company.