Laura Aboriginal Dance and Cultural Festival 1997

Report from Tynon Alaom, Bellingen NSW

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It's not often that a full moon happens on the night of an equinox, but on the 21st of June this year, the southern hemispheres winter solstice, the moon was going to be as full as moons get. The equinox is a special time for many traditions, as is the full moon - together they are dynamite. It was going to be a powerful time...

Ten days prior to the equinox, a friend, Munga, calls from Townsville. "Lets go to Laura." We were planning to catch up and go bush soon anyway... Why not?

The journey begins.

After two days in a bus and jumping straight from there into Munga's 4WD for another twelve hours, we're moving through the dry forest of the Cape - as far as the eye can see. A good wet season has bought everything up shining green. We picked up a couple of hitch-hikers - also heading for Laura. We're all stoked.

Ahead there's a spectacular river bend with curved sheer cliffs behind. Wouldn't it be great if... We round the bend and there's the gate 'LAURA FESTIVAL'

Gatherings have been held here for thousands of years and the energy of the place is phenomenal. It's hard to relate three timeless days into a few words... better get your butt up here!!. I'll give it a go - some snapshots of Laura.

It's similar to DTE's Confest but totally different... 5000 people all camped out together. Tent city. Big tarped shelters everywhere with tribal names letting the mobs know 'Here's your spot.'. If you're non-indigenous, you're a minority - nice change! Kids being everywhere make it a real family event, with a 'no alcohol or drugs' policy keeping the vibe clear.

River curved around the site, with no swimming except in one spot - resident croc, or so the story goes...

Amazing flat area - the Bora ring - with trees lining it and forming a perfect circle. Looks like it has been man-flattened - maybe it has with a few thousand years of dancing bare feet...

Going to Laura is a great opening to re-connecting - reconciling the old ways with the new and somehow gives a deeper sense of the lands' spirit demanding expression. Wether it's Native Title or the Farmers Federation, Laura traditional dance and food stalls selling coke and full on western cuisine, it's a challenging coming together of worlds. We've had the clash, Aboriginal folk have felt the clatter. Us westerners are waking to the mess and now we're all hoping that a new way will unfold. A way of healing, reconciling, recreating, feeling the spirit that is always flowing. Laura celebrates it all.

Twenty two or so tribes, dancing for two days solid and some dancing in their camps during the night. It wasn't until Sunday that we were invited to join in and 'shake a leg' with the mob. It's hard to sit still when the Didge , clapsticks, boomerangs, drums, stomping feet and voices are dancing the beat - often up to 60 people, from age 3 to 83+ dancing and singing together. I mean seriously stirring to see three and four generations moving together when our family structure seems so lost.

Saturday evening. Tiddas, Kev Carmody, Dave Hudson with Didj and guitar and comedian antics, as well as many local acts kept us jiving. Full moon made for a high time in the balmy winter warmth. Sleep came at some point, watching the stars. Sunday saw more of the same, highlights including heaps of dancing from the Wik mob and a ceremony with the land being handed back. ATSIC Chair, Gatjid Djerkuerra, the governess of QLD and all the clans of the area were present. Many spoke and many cried. Then, as the handing back ceremony was finalised, an eagle flew over their heads about ten foot off the ground and circled the Bora half a dozen times, slowly heading skywards.

That was Laura. From all accounts - and each one is special - a strong coming together and celebration. So Munga and I are going again - families and friends in tow. Come along, it's one of those 'must dos' - with all the didge playing a huge bonus. It was great to feel it so strong - traditional rhythms. I came back feeling a different beat. Playing a different beat.

See ya there in two years... Tynon. Copyright 1997

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