Local dance group Mununjali Ngari shared culture with a crowd twice the population of Beaudesert at the opening of the popular Falls Festival on New Year’s Eve.
The 31 December to 2 January event at Byron Bay reportedly attracts about 13,000 people. The estimated population of Beaudesert is around 6000 people.
Mununjali Ngari joined the Mirrigingi Dancers on the ‘El Capitan’ main stage at North Byron Parklands, on Minjungbal Country, to share the Welcome to Country in a joining of saltwater and freshwater connections.
Lead acts like Genesis Owusu, the Artic Monkeys, Ocean Alley, Chvrches, Spacey Jane and even The OG Wiggles took to that same stage after the dancers’ ceremony.
Falls Festival, which has been going since 1993, is widely considered Australia’s favourite New Year’s festival and is held at Melbourne, Byron Bay and Freemantle.
Waylene Currie from Mununjali Ngari said it was about connection.
“The saltwater mob when they go to big ceremonies for festivals ask the freshwater mob to come join them. It’s about our family lines between the saltwater and freshwater people. Mununjali Ngari did Splendour in the Grass last year and we also join in on the Kinship Festival in Murwillumbah,” she said.
She said, while it was not the first time Mununjali Ngari had opened a major music festival, it was the biggest stage she had been on.
“Everyone took time to dive within themselves to create and hold that space to open it up. That land in itself actually holds such a significant story,” she said.
“We embraced the country, ceremony and coming together – we merged so well and learned from one another through that process.”
She said the dancers’ role at the festival was unique.
“We don’t do it to perform. We do it to show recognition of the country and us as people and our continuing connection to that place and respect for the land, bringing in that good spirit and making sure everyone is looked after,” she said. “We acknowledge Uncle Magpie Currie who has organised being at these big festivals for years. When we do these big opening ceremonies, we do it in representation of him, too.”