“It’s the kind of festival that changes the way you see the world forever.”—John Butler

At Intrepid, we're on a mission to create positive change through the joy of travel. That’s why if you’re thinking of doing a Northern Territory tour this August, you should seriously consider aligning it with Barunga Festival. Barunga is a closed Indigenous community that you usually need a permit to enter, but for three days every year they open up to the rest of the world to celebrate life in Katherine's remote Indigenous communities. With a jam-packed program featuring storytelling circles, art and bush medicine workshops, and some of Australia's best First Nations musicians, it's a wonderful opportunity to learn, support and connect with the vibrant Barunga community.

What is Barunga Festival?

Barunga Festival is a three-day festival that celebrates the best of remote Indigenous Australia through music, sport and cultural activities. It takes place in the small community of Barunga, 80 kilometres southeast of Katherine in the Northern Territory. Barunga Festival was founded in 1985 by Bangardi Robert Lee (1952–2005), a leader of the Bagala clan of the Jawoyn people, and has grown to be one of the most anticipated events on the Australian festival calendar. It attracts 4000 Indigenous and non-Indigenous people from around the world every year.

When is Barunga Festival 2022?

Barunga Festival is usually held on the Queen’s Birthday long weekend in June, but this year it will be taking place from Friday 12 August to Sunday 14 August.

What happened at Barunga Festival in 1988?

1988 was the year First Nations leaders from the Northern and Central Land Councils came together and presented Prime Minister Bob Hawke with The Barunga Statement. The statement called on the Australian Government to pass a treaty and recognise the rights of First Nations people. The statement was written in English on bark and presented with art from local communities – highlighting the collaboration between the different cultures. Prime Minister Bob Hawke signed the statement at the festival in 1988, but it's yet to be recognised by the Commonwealth Parliament.

Barunga Festival 2022 lineup

The program is crammed with amazing music, friendly (but competitive!) sports competitions, and heaps of cultural activities and workshops ranging from didgeridoo making and basket weaving to bush medicine classes and spear-throwing competitions. The 2022 music lineup is yet to be released, so keep an eye on the official Barunga Festival website for updates.

Visit the Barunga Festival website

Barunga Festival highlights

A traditional didgeridoo

Listen to First Nations musicians

Music plays an important role in the Barunga community and your ears will be delighted all weekend by the diverse lineup. Every year the festival showcases some of the Northern Territory's top musical talent and rising stars, as well as some of Australia's most popular First Nations bands and singers. From traditional didgeridoo songs and rap to youth choirs and roots, kick back on the grass and lose yourself in the music.

Traditional weaved baskets

Do a weaving workshop

Weaving is an ancient, women-only activity in Aboriginal culture where women get together and make baskets, dilly bags and mats, and more importantly, chat and support each other. Using pandanus leaves that have been coloured with natural dye from roots, leaves and fruits, learn traditional knots and weaving techniques as you chat and exchange stories. It takes hours, or days even, to make a single basket, but simply sitting in a circle of women is all part of the magic.

Native bush herbs used for medicinal purposes

Take part in a bush medicine workshop

Join a group of local women from the Banatjarl Strongbala Wimun Grup (meaning “strong women’s group” in Kriol) for a bush medicine workshop. From oils and ointments to powders and teas, you'll learn about Jawoyn botanical knowledge that has been passed down the generations and all the wonderful healing properties of leaves, seeds, flowers and bark that are grown in the bush in the Katherine region.

Traditional damper bread

Learn how to make damper

Learn how to make damper, a type of bush bread that First Nations people have been baking for thousands of years. Damper is traditionally made with native seeds and nuts which are then crushed into fine flour with a grinding stone, mixed with water and rolled into a dough. The dough is then baked in hot coals or ashes for about 45 minutes. Enjoy a chunk of freshly baked damper slathered in butter, honey or jam with a hot cup of billy tea.

Barunga Festival FAQs

You can buy tickets on Moshtix or at the festival gate, however it's recommended to buy a ticket in advance in case they sell out. Your ticket is valid for all three days and allows you to camp in Barunga. 

Adult (18 years and over) $55.00
Youth (12 -17 years) $20.00
Child (5-11 years) $5.00
Child (Under 5 years) Free

 

Barunga is 80 kilometres southeast of Katherine on Central Arnhem Road. The drive takes one hour from Katherine and the road is sealed so you don't need a 4WD. If you don't fancy driving, Katherine Coaches run several daily shuttle services to and from the festival. If you're travelling from further afield, the easiest way to get there is to fly into Darwin and then hire a car or buy a Greyhound bus ticket to Katherine. Bus tickets are relatively cheap and the journey takes roughly three hours. 

Yes. Barunga is a dry community and the festival is a strictly alcohol-free event.

There are no hotels in Barunga, so camping is the only option unless you stay in Katherine and drive or hop on a shuttle to the festival each day. There are shower and toilet blocks at each campsite, however all sites are unpowered and generators aren't allowed. Pitching a tent is included in your ticket, but if you want to bring a camper or caravan you'll need to buy an extra ticket.

If you're heading to Katherine a few days before the festival or you fancy sticking around afterwards, there are heaps of things to see and do in the region. Katherine is in the heart of the Northern Territory with plenty of adventures right on your doorstep whether you want to explore national parks, see wildlife or learn more about First Nations cultures. Here are some of our favourite things to do in Katherine:

  • Go hiking in Nitmiluk National Park (Katherine Gorge)
  • Cruise along the inky waters of the gorge
  • Swim in the beautiful Edith falls
  • Bathe in Katherine's hot springs
  • Visit the nearby town of Pine Creek and learn about the community's history 

Everyone travelling on an Intrepid trip must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of carriage. 

All travellers are required to produce:  

  • Proof of COVID-19 vaccination

  • All children aged 5 to 17 years old must provide proof of vaccination (if eligible), proof of recovery or a negative COVID-19 test.

  • If you are unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons, you may apply for an exemption. Exemptions will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. To apply, you must provide a medical certificate from a medical professional. 

In all cases, you must be fully inoculated. This means you must receive the full dosage of the COVID-19 vaccine and allow enough time for immunity to take effect. Each COVID-19 vaccine has different dosages and timeframes for inoculation, so please check the relevant medical advice associated with your vaccine.

Learn more about Intrepid's COVID-19 proof of vaccination policy

Our Northern Territory tours departing in August

Departing Days From USD
6 Aug 2022
Broome to Darwin Overland Adventure
10 2320
6 Aug 2022
Darwin to Broome Overland Adventure
10 2320
13 Aug 2022
Top End & Kakadu Explorer
6 2520
20 Aug 2022
Kakadu, Katherine & Litchfield Adventure
4 1360

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