Celebrating culture and community

Celebrating culture and community


A showcase of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures from 8 to 15 July 2018.

A free celebration of performance, art, food and cultures.

View event program

Yabun Festival

The 2018 Yabun Festival was produced by Gadigal Information Service and supported by the City of Sydney. Now in its 16th year, 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.

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.  The event takes place on Saturday 14 July 2018 at Hyde Park from 10am to 2pm. 

Now in its seventh year, the City of Sydney event will include 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, Because of her, we can!, celebrates the invaluable contributions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.

National Reconciliation Week

The red and yellow colours of the Aboriginal flag lit up Sydney Town Hall from 26 May to 3 June to celebrate National Reconciliation Week and 3 important anniversaries in 2017:

  • 26 May National Sorry Day, marked 20 years since the release of the Bringing Them Home report about the impacts of past government policies to remove Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, cultures and communities.
  • 27 May 50 years since the 1967 referendum when more than 90% of Australians voted ‘yes’ to include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the census.
  • 3 June 25 years since the High Court’s Mabo decision that recognised Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ unique connection with the land, and abolished the myth of terra nullius.

The City supported events throughout National Reconciliation Week including a flag-raising ceremony and Sorry Day morning tea at Redfern Community Centre, and an exhibition of images from the 1967 referendum at Customs House. See image gallery below.

In 1957, Sydney Town Hall hosted a public meeting organised by the Aboriginal–Australian Fellowship, attended by over 1,500 people, to launch a petition for a referendum to amend the Australian Constitution. Over the following decade, campaigners such as Faith Bandler, Pearl Gibbs, Pastor Doug Nicholls, Harriet Ellis and Chicka Dixon gathered public support.

Aunty Norma Ingram, local Elder and member of the City’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Panel, was a teenager at the time of the referendum.

“The 1967 referendum recognised us as human beings in our own country,” Aunty Norma Ingram said.

“We had to go to the public to ask if it was okay for us to be counted in the census as Australian citizens. It was the impetus for us to work towards self-determination. It has been a life long journey for First Peoples.”

Reconciliation Australia Board Director Kirstie Parker said the 1967 referendum was and still remains the most successful referendum in Australian history.  

“It shows that when Australians are well informed on the issues, we will step up and try to change the course of our nation,” Ms Parker said.

“The 1967 referendum anniversary shows us what we can achieve when Australia collectively works together towards a unified goal. It also reminds us how much we are still yet to do towards achieving a truly reconciled Australia.” 

Reconciliation Australia and Gadigal Information Services held a gala event at Sydney Town Hall on 1 June, supported by the City. 

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.

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 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

To mark Reconciliation Week 2016, we launched our reconciliation action plan, 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.

Redfern Park is the site of a defining moment in the reconciliation movement when former prime minister Paul Keating launched the Year of the Indigenous Person in 1992. His speech focused on reconciliation and was the first acknowledgment by the Commonwealth government of the dispossession of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Reconciliation Australia has endorsed the City's plan, which was also endorsed by Council at its June meeting in 2015.

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 cultural 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 is 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 people, and Nicole Foreshew’s Born in darkness before dawn, which was projected onto the Australian Museum in 2013.

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 2017, The City contributed $90,000 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 festival in Australia.

For the past 6 years the City has worked with Indigenous businesses to host NAIDOC in the City. The event on the first Monday each July continues to grow, attracting over 10,000 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.

The City is also pleased to support community initiatives through our grants including the annual Indigenous Veterans Commemoration in Hyde Park and the bi-annual Yellamundie National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Playwriting Festival, which is held every 2 years. 

Every year we support the Redfern Aboriginal Anzac Day commemorations hosted by Babana Aboriginal Men’s group. Babana was successful in gaining a $6,200 grant in cash and in-kind support each year for 2014, 2015 and 2016 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. 

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 60 sites around Sydney significant to Aboriginal people. Visit the Sydney Barani website to download a copy.

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. This information will help the City develop the Eora Journey Walking Trail.

Our protocols

When consulting and working with Aboriginal 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 committment 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 Advisory Panel

The City's advisory panel informs and shapes our work with Aboriginal 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 1,250 items make up the City of Sydney Library’s Koori collection, a wide range of titles dedicated to Aboriginal histories and cultures. Topics covered include land rights, Aboriginal leaders and sporting greats. The Koori collection is held at Waterloo Library.

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


Eora Journey Barani: Sydney's Aboriginal history Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council

Last updated: Thursday, 14 June 2018