Today marked an extraordinary evening at King Edward Park, where the Newcastle community gathered in anticipation and spirit for Ngarrama, the city’s largest reconciliation event. Reflecting on the event's overwhelming success and the sense of unity it fostered, I am moved to share my personal experiences and the profound impact this occasion has had on me and the wider community.
With more than 4,000 attendees in the previous year, Ngarrama 2024 was expected to surpass this figure significantly, and it did not disappoint. The event, a beacon of sharing, openness, and community dialogue, came at a crucial time after a year that underscored the importance of these values in moving forward as a nation.
Organised by the University of Newcastle (UoN), Awabakal Ltd, City of Newcastle (CN), and Newcastle Greater Mutual Group (NGM Group), Ngarrama stands as a powerful invitation to engage in meaningful reconciliation. It's a night where families, friends, and strangers come together with picnic blankets, ready to immerse in truth-telling, performances, song, and historical acceptance.
The significance of Ngarrama, meaning "to sit, listen, and know," cannot be overstated. It embodies the essence of the evening—a safe space to connect to country, share in cultural knowledge, and reflect on our shared history. Nathan Towney, UoN Pro Vice-Chancellor of Indigenous Strategy and Leadership, aptly remarked on the event's growing strength, highlighting the opportunity it presents for deepening our connection to country and each other.
Inspired by Sydney’s Vigil at Barangaroo, Ngarrama invites us to consider life before 1788, offering a program rich in traditional dance, music, storytelling, and knowledge sharing. The evening featured performances by renowned Ngiyampaa, Yuin, and Gumbangirr violinist Eric Avery and the Torres Strait Islander dance group Mui Mui Bumer Gedlam, winner of NITV’s DanceRites 2023 competition, among others. Local theatre and puppetry company Curious Legends and the Wakagetti dance group also graced the stage, bringing First Nations stories to life and ending the night on a vibrant note.
This event's success is a collective achievement, with leaders and organisations coming together to support a cause close to our hearts. From Awabakal Ltd CEO Jason Smith celebrating the community's eagerness to learn about our shared history, to Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes and NGM Group's James Cudmore expressing their pride in supporting reconciliation and truth-telling, Ngarrama has indeed become a highlight of Newcastle’s progressive and inclusive community.
Professor Alex Zelinsky AO, Vice-Chancellor and Reconciliation Champion of the University of Newcastle, reiterated the university’s commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander excellence and collaboration. As Ngarrama 2024 unfolded, it served as a powerful reminder of the university's role in fostering understanding and celebrating over 60,000 years of history and culture.
As I left King Edward Park that evening, the profound sense of community, respect, and shared purpose stayed with me. Ngarrama is more than an event; it is a movement towards a future where reconciliation, understanding, and cultural respect are woven into the fabric of our society. I am honoured to have been a part of this special night and look forward to seeing how Ngarrama continues to grow and inspire in the years to come.