Aboriginal Kids from Barunga Community singing at the Barunga Festival

When the Dry Season finally arrives, and the humidity dissipates, Darwin families are itching to get out and about, enjoy the glorious weather and all the great things to do with kids in the Top End at this time of year. There's awesome kid friendly camping spots, fabulous easy weekend getaways to places like Kakadu National Park as well as some awesome Aboriginal cultural experiences on offer.

But, if there is one thing in particular that Darwin folk love, it's festivals. And, one of the jewels for our family is the Barunga Festival.

Here's why!

By Libby Larsen


A weekend of cool tunes, sports, arts and culture

Every year, Barunga, a remote Aboriginal community about 4 hours from Darwin open their community and welcome the general public for 3 days for their annual music, sports and cultural festival - the Barunga Festival. It's such a great way for our boys to get an insight into Aboriginal life and culture.

Traditional dancing at Barunga Aboriginal festival in the Northern Territory, Australia

Photo Credit: Katherine Times - Barunga Festival

Barunga is a significant place in Australia's history. Maybe you haven't heard of Barunga, but chances are you've boogied on down to the world famous Yothu Yindi song Treaty? It's part of the Aussie psyche. In the late 1980s, Prime Minister Bob Hawke was given a statement on bark at Barunga Festival by Aboriginal leaders calling for a treaty that recognised the prior ownership of Aboriginal people. It didn't eventuate, but it's still a priority for many Aboriginal leaders and its back on the national agenda.

Kids can get involved in the Aboriginal Traditional Dancing at Barunga Aboriginal Festival in the Northern Territory

Photo Credit: ABC - Barunga Festival

So, every June long weekend, we dust off our camping kit, and head to the festival (which is not far away by Territory standards). Barunga Festival is a chance for "everyone" to catch up, after the Wet Season - whether you are Darwin-based or travelling from a remote community in Arnhem Land.

We love the friendly vibe, catching up with friends, the music and the Bunngul (traditional dance) every evening at the Barunga Festival. Our kids love campfires under the stars, squashing into our family tent at night, and running free with all the other kids.

Kids from Barunga Aboriginal Festival playing with kids from Darwin at the Barunga Aboriginal festival, Northern Territory

Photo Credit: Indigenous Health Alliance - Barunga Festival

But, one of the best things is just to take it easy, relax, and have a cuppa at your campsite, or perhaps contemplate an afternoon dip in the "croc-free" creek.

Aboriginal women and children doing traditional dancing at the Barunga Aboriginal festival in the Northern Territory

Photo Credit: Festival Pozible - Barunga Festival

The Barunga Festival bands

Music wise there is usually a pretty amazing line up of Indigenous and non-Indigenous bands at the Barunga Festival. In the past few years, we've seen Paul Kelly, Gurrumul, Peter Garett, Courtney Barnett, Jen Cloher and popular Indigenous local bands like B2M. There's the main stage where it's all happening and a smaller and more intimate stage near the creek where we have seen some amazing acoustic performances from nationally acclaimed musicians.

Barunga Aboriginal Festival - singers

Gurrumul and Peter Garett at Barunga Festival. Photo Credit: ABC Darwin

Justine Clarke played a few sets at the Barunga Festival much to the delight of the kids (and some of the dads). She also performed some songs on stage with the kids from the Barunga Primary School.

Barunga Festival with Kids

Rex and Justine Clarke at Barunga Festival

Cool activities

The Barunga Beats Disco held on Friday night on the basketball court goes off, and the local kids have some mind-blowing moves that you will see would bedazzle the judges of "Australias Got Talent." Go along and soak it up and have a dance to and try out your moon-walking style!

Barunga Festival with Kids

Photo credit: Double J - Barunga Festival

There are heaps of other really cool activities for kids to get involved with - the spear throwing comp, basket weaving with pandanus leaves and damper making. You can even learn how to carve a yidaki (didgeridoo).

Barunga Festival for families

Photo Credit: Barunga Festival Double J

Even if you are not a footy enthusiast (like me), watching a few footy matches is something not to be missed because the competition between communities is fierce. I'm a big fan of the women's basketball. They are amazing and their athletic skills blow my mind. The women's softball comp also showcases some awesome talent.

Barunga Aboriginal Festival for families

Photo Credit: Barunga Festival ABC

There is also a great program with the Jawoyn Junior Guides who lead walking and bike riding tours of the community.

Need to know

  • There are some food stalls at Barunga Festival - but it's good to be self-sufficient with at least most of what you need food wise if you have kids in tow.

  • The camping is basic, and you are generally packed in with other campers. Our kids like the camping areas where there are other families.

  • There are porta loos, so it's a good idea to bring extra loo paper and hand sanitiser.

  • You need to book and get tix online before you go.

  • Barunga is a dry community, and the Festival is a strictly drug and alcohol free event - i.e., no arvo beers or wine by the fire.

  • You need to bring a well-stocked camping kit, tents, sleeping bags, stove, water, etc.

  • It gets pretty dusty at Barunga Festival and can get hot during the day, and there's nowhere to take a shower. But you can take a dip in the creek, or have a bucket bath at your camp.

The Barunga Festival website has all the info you need to know

Barunga Aboriginal Festival for families

Barunga Festival bath time for our boys


Barunga Aboriginal Festival for families

Photo Credit: Barunga Festival ABC

Barunga Festival

Photo Credit: CAAMA - Barunga Festival


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