Celebrating culture and community

Celebrating culture and community

Indigenous events

Find out about a range of events including arts and culture, live music, performance and more.

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Cultural practice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people practising cultural heritage in public spaces managed by the City of Sydney no longer need to apply for a busking permit.

The City recognises the intrinsic right to practise culture is vital to maintaining wellbeing, personal identity and connection to culture for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. And we’ve removed the need to seek approval to practise these traditions of art, dance, song and storytelling in public.

We’ve worked with the community to develop protocols to guide the practice of culture in our area and ask that people or groups follow these protocols.

You can read more in the busking and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Practice policy and our protocols for the practice of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture in public spaces.

NAIDOC in the City

NAIDOC in the City is a free celebration of the world’s longest living cultures through food, song, art, dance, and stories in the heart of the city. Last year's event took place on Saturday 14 July 2018 at Hyde Park.

The event included a range of family-friendly activities and performances, such as live music, dance performers, dedicated kids zones, a marketplace, arts and crafts, sports clinics, food stalls and 2 earth ovens.

NAIDOC Week is a national program that celebrates the National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee, which grew from the first political groups seeking rights for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the 1920s.

This year’s theme, 'Voice. Treaty. Truth.' acknowledges that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have always wanted an enhanced role in decision making in Australia's democracy.

Reconciliation action plan

The City’s reconciliation action plan supports the Eora Journey and outlines our progress so far to continue working towards improving relationships between non-Indigenous Australians and our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Our RAP documents what we will do to further the goal of reconciliation focusing on 3 key areas:

  • building respect
  • forging relationships
  • creating opportunities for and with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

To mark Reconciliation Week 2016, we launched our Innovate RAP, with a celebration and traditional earth oven in Redfern Park, attended by over 300 staff and members of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

The Innovate recconciliation action plan final report 2018 highlights our progress and achievements to date. This report will inform the development of the City's next RAP in 2019.

Eora Journey

The Eora Journey is made up of 4 projects – recognition in the public domain, a significant event, an economic development plan and a local Aboriginal knowledge and culture centre.

Recognition in the public domain

The City has committed $5 million to create 7 works of national significance by Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander artists to celebrate the First Peoples of Australia in our global city.

Ahead of the Anzac centenary in 2015, the City unveiled a major artwork in Hyde Park to honour Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service men and women.

Yininmadyemi (pronounced yinn-in-madj-amee), Thou didst let fall, by Aboriginal artist Tony Albert, features 4 7-metre tall, 1.5-tonne bullets and 3 fallen shells to represent the diggers who returned to Australia and the ones who lost their lives.

The artwork was the third to be commissioned under the City’s Eora Journey program. The previous 2 works are Reko Rennie’s Welcome to Redfern, which he created with the help of local young Aboriginal people, and Nicole Foreshew’s Born in darkness before dawn, which was projected onto the Australian Museum for 4 months in 2013.

In August 2018, the City announced Judy Watson's proposal, bara, as the fourth Eora Journey public artwork. Located on the Tarpeian Precinct Lawn above Dubbagullee (Bennelong Point), bara will be a major new permanent artwork to celebrate the traditional custodians of Gadigal Country. The artwork is expected to be completed by mid-2020.

More information about the City's Eora Journey public art program is on our City Art website.

Significant events

The City provides support for a range of events to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts and culture.

We are proud to be the major sponsor of Yabun. In 2018, The City contributed $100,000 to support Gadigal Information Service to hold the 26 January event in Victoria Park. Yabun is the largest one day Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander gathering in Australia.

For the past 7 years the City has worked with Indigenous businesses to host NAIDOC in the City. The event on the Saturday of NAIDOC Week continues to grow, attracting over 8,000 people to the city centre to celebrate and share Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. We also provide grants to local organisations to hold NAIDOC celebrations in the community. In 2018, the National NAIDOC Awards ceremony took place in Sydney and we provided $40,000 in cash sponsorship.

The City is also pleased to support community initiatives through our grants including the annual Indigenous Veterans Commemoration in Hyde Park and the biennial Yellamundie National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Playwriting Festival.

Every year we support the Redfern Aboriginal Anzac Day commemorations hosted by Babana Aboriginal Men’s group. Babana was successful in gaining cash and in-kind support each year with $20,000 in 2017, $22,000 in 2018 and $24,000 in 2019, to celebrate the contribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service men and women on Anzac Day.

Economic development plan

The City has consulted widely on developing an Eora Journey economic development plan that will address the community’s access to education and training opportunities as well as issues associated with business investment, enterprise development and employment.

The plan was adopted by Council in 2016 and has 4 themes: create an economic hub, maximise employment outcomes, enhancing tertiary education opportunities and grow sectors of the economy.

Local Aboriginal knowledge and culture centre

In 2018 we purchased the former Redfern Post Office for use as a local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and knowledge centre. The details around the use and operating model for the building will be developed by the community with the support of the City.

The City will coordinate a consultation process to support the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community to develop a plan for the best use of the building.

Barani Barrabugu

The Eora Journey builds on existing work undertaken by the City to celebrate our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, culture and community. In June 2011 the City published the free booklet, Barani Barrabugu (Yesterday Tomorrow), a historical walking tour that takes in more than 50 sites around Sydney significant to Aboriginal people. Visit the Sydney Barani website for more information.

The award-winning Barani Barrabugu was the result of 2 years of extensive research by the City’s History Unit and Aboriginal historian Steve Miller, under the guidance of the City’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Panel.

The Sydney Culture Walks app features self-guided Barani walks for Redfern and Sydney Cove/Warrane.

Our protocols

When consulting and working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the Council and City of Sydney staff are guided by a set of protocols based on respect, trust and a spirit of openness. The protocols express our commitment to working in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander residents.

They also outline ways in which the City of Sydney can demonstrate its commitment to reconciliation, such as:

  • acknowledging the traditional custodians of Sydney
  • flying the Aboriginal flag above Sydney Town Hall
  • recognising Aboriginal peoples' right to self-determination
  • challenging negative stereotypes
  • marking significant ceremonies and dates.

You can download the protocols in full or summary version.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Panel

The City's advisory panel informs and shapes our work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Made up of a cross-section of community members, including industry professionals, young people and Elders, it was established to advise our organisation on matters that are important to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Following a strong recommendation from the panel, a full meeting of Council in 2010 voted in favour of using the term 'invasion' to describe European settlement of Sydney. The sentence below was subsequently included in the City's 10-year corporate plan.
"Despite the destructive impact of this invasion, Aboriginal culture endured."

The panel is responsible for reviewing the City's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Protocols, in conjunction with members of the community.

Koori collection

More than 2,000 items make up the City of Sydney Library’s Koori collection, a wide range of titles dedicated to Aboriginal storytelling, histories and cultures. Topics covered include land rights, Aboriginal leaders and sporting greats. The Koori collection is held at Waterloo and Glebe libraries.

Significant partnerships

Joining forces with the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council, the City put together the Principles of Cooperation, a set of guidelines for government departments that provide services to the Aboriginal community.

The City is also an active member of the Eastern Region Local Government Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Forum. The aim of the forum is to stimulate and advocate a commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Events in the forum’s calendar include the Reconciliation Week Primary Schools Art Competition and the Pauline McLeod Awards for Reconciliation.


Find out more about our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander projects and programs:

David Beaumont
Community Engagement Coordinator (Aboriginal Community Development)
02 9265 9333

Main image: City staff members: Preston Peachey, David Beaumont, Zoe Stanton, Chris McBride and Shania Cubillo with Aunty Norma Ingram and Kirstie Parker from Reconciliation Australia, and Laila Ellmoos, Jack Dunn and Tony Smith.

Yabun Festival

The 2019 Yabun Festival was produced by Gadigal Information Service and supported by the City of Sydney. Yabun is the largest 1-day festival of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures in Australia. Yabun takes place on 26 January at Victoria Park on Parramatta and City roads.

Last updated: Friday, 8 November 2019