Garma is Australia’s premier indigenous event, a celebration of the cultural, artistic, and ceremonial traditions of the Yolngu people.
Each year 2,500 guests from across the nation are immersed in the rich cultural traditions of their Yolngu hosts, experiencing miny'tji (art), manikay (song), bunggul (dance), and ancient story-telling, as we pride ourselves in showcasing the treasures of the mighty Yolngu clans.
Over four days guests camp at Gulkula, a significant ceremonial ground, remotely located 40 kilometres on an unsealed red dirt road, from Nhulunbuy in northeast Arnhem Land.
Since 1999, the Yothu Yindi Foundation has staged the annual Garma Festival, which has evolved from a small community gathering to what now is widely considered Australia's leading Indigenous-led cultural exchange event and premier forum for discussion of Indigenous affairs.
Garma has the remarkable ability to transcend colour, creed, race, and many of our supporters recognise how remarkable this unique ingredient is to shape our nation’s future. Our programming will explore difficult conversations to find solutions to better manage a brighter future for our nation. You will not be disappointed with the dialogue; you’re guaranteed to finish your day with a new perspective or often some feel inspired by keynote addresses and motivational speakers.
This is where the melting pot of Australia’s Indigenous leaders gather and build momentum from within the Indigenous space unlike any other - completely determined by Indigenous people themselves.
Garma proves that Indigenous Australia is vibrant, where we lead by example & use the powerful Garma platform to share with you some of the complexities that are often fraught inside communities across this nation.
2021 - CANCELLED
The next Garma Festival TBA
To immerse in the full spectrum of programmed activities we recommend arriving on Thursday afternoon/evening and leaving on Tuesday morning.
Gates will open to the public at noon on Thursday TBA (camping, dinner, or light supper, and airport transfers will be provided).
The official opening ceremony commences on Friday TBA at approx. 4 pm.
Gates will close to the public at noon on Tuesday TBA (breakfast and airport transfers will be provided)
In light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Yothu Yindi Foundation is committed to delivering attendees and the local community members a COVID safe event. The health and safety of our people and the remote communities of Arnhemland is our number one priority and will be implementing various measures on-site based on the Chief Health Officer NT Health Department COVID-19 event guidelines including but not limited to
- Social distancing practise and signage across the full festival site (including physical spacing requirements while queuing)
- Person limits for particular spaces and areas; or
- Person density requirements.
- Hand washing and sanitising stations across the full festival site and enhanced cleaning in all areas, as well as COVID-19 safety marshalls.
- Wearing masks for some indoor areas on-site and travelling to and from the event in designated YYF vehicles where physical distancing may be difficult.
We ask that you and each member of your booking party make a reasonable assessment of your health status before attending the event and that you stay at home if you are displaying COVID-19 or flu-like symptoms, or have been in contact with a person with a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 or if your living in a declared hot spot location.
There are strict border controls in place for all arrivals to the Territory including returning Territorians. All arrivals by air, road, or sea to the Northern Territory must compete a border entry pass no more than 7 days prior to arrival. Further information regarding border passes and quarantining requirements can be found here.
Mandatory face masks are required to be worn at all NT Airports in the terminal and on all domestic and international flights. For further information please refer to the Darwin airport website and the Gove airport website.
Patrons may be required to wear a face mask in the designated Garma airport transfer vehicles whilst travelling to and from the event and some circumstances onsite at the event in enclosed areas where it may be difficult to social distance. Children under the age of 12 and those who have a medical exemption will not be required to wear a face mask however we do encourage that you maintain a high standard of hygiene and social distance where possible.
You must notify the Yothu Yindi Foundation immediately if you or any member of your booking party develop any symptoms of COVID-19 within 14 days of attending the event. You can contact us by calling the office 08 89455055.
It is recommended that all patrons keep up to date with any changes by visiting the NT Coronavirus website and strongly advise that patrons download the COVID safe app before travelling to the event.
Anyone not adhering to these requirements may be in breach of directions issued by the CHO for which penalties may apply.
Our ticketing structure is designed as an all-inclusive package deal. Discounts will not be issued to those who choose to attend only a portion of the event or who forego their camping entitlements and stay off-site.
The Garma festival is held at Gulkula which is about a 30min drive from Nhulunbuy in northeast Arnhem Land. Gulkula is the traditional ceremonial grounds of the Yolngu.
Airnorth operates daily flights to Gove from Darwin Airport (1 hour 10 mins) and Cairns Airport (1 hour 40 mins), both of which connect with flights from other capital cities. Please check the airline websites for the latest Airnorth & Qantas flight schedules.
There is also a range of smaller charter companies that offer flights to northeast Arnhem Land from Darwin, learn more about the companies offering charter flight services here.
Please note that all travel arrangements are the responsibility of each guest if you require assistance with booking flights we recommend:
Entertainment Travel Partners
Brad Thomas Phone: 02 9280 3767 or email: email@example.com
Airport transfers are included in your ticket purchase. Our friendly Garma transport team will collect you from the Gove airport upon arrival and transfer you back to the airport upon departure. Please ensure that you update your travel details in your booking via the Members Portal so we know when you are arriving.
Note: we do not provide any other transport to and from the venue if you choose to stay off-site or wish to venture into town during the festival. Please see below for options:
Nhulunbuy Radio Taxis T: 08 8987 1144
Kansas Transport T: 08 8987 2872
Gove Rentals: 08 8987 1700
Manny's Car Hire: 08 8972 2300
Driving to Garma
If you plan on driving to the Garma Festival you can via the Central Arnhem Road, the turnoff is 50 kilometres south of Katherine and it is 675 kilometres from this turn-off to Nhulunbuy. A four-wheel drive is essential for travelling the Central Arnhem Road as the majority of the road is unsealed. The road conditions can vary from sealed roads to gravel and dirt road. You will come across some difficult river crossings, large corrugations and roads are often prone to washout. Do not swim at the river crossings as saltwater crocodiles inhabit these areas. Be particularly careful driving at night as buffaloes and other animals tend to stray across the roads.
Be sure to drive to the conditions at all times. Carry plenty of food, fuel, and water, spare tyre(s), puncture repair kit, and mobile service that can be used in remote areas.
Before travelling, we recommend that you check the road conditions at Road Report NT
When travelling along the Central Arnhem Road a permit is required from the Northern Land Council.
The Northern Land Council has allowed all ticket holders to use their 2021 Garma Pass as their permit to travel directly to the Garma Festival site via the Central Arnhem Road. This permit does not cover guests wanting to visit other sites or communities in the Arnhem Land area. You will have to apply for additional permit/s from Dhimurru Aboriginal Corporation or the Northern Land Council.
For information regarding permit applications please check the Northern Land Council and Dhimurru Aboriginal Corporation websites.
Please see refer to our terms & conditions in regards to Garma permits.
PLEASE NOTE: The Northern Land Council advises that permission will NOT be granted for any travel via the Ramingining Road.
Accommodation & Facilities
Although Gulkula seems large on the map, the site is quite compact, meaning you’re never too far from the facilities you need. All camping spots are within a short walk of showers and bathrooms, the main kitchen, and the coffee shop. The Women’s Healing, which is about a 10 min stroll from the campsite, is the furthest you will have to walk.
Accommodation is supplied to all guests of which you will receive a 4P size tent, sleeping bag, and a single air mattress. For the comfort of your stay, we recommend guests bring their sheets, blanket, and pillow as these items are not supplied.
Garma is intended to be a bush camping experience and the festival site is well set up for this. Camping with us onsite at Gulkula enables guests a greater opportunity to experience Garma, and its special character, purpose, and essence. The campground is set up for tents only it is not equipped to accommodate any type of campervans, camping trailers, caravans, or other camping vehicles. Guests will have to leave them in the designated car parking bays until departure.
Note: The Garma team does their utmost best to keep guests as comfortable as possible. However, if you are not accustomed to camping in the bush you may want to consider offsite accommodation options. Discounts are not available to guests who forego their camping entitlements. We do not take responsibility for travel or accommodation arrangements for participants who elect to stay offsite. If you do opt to not camp at the festival, accommodation facilities in Nhulunbuy are very limited and can book out very quickly.
Gove Peninsula MotelT: 08 8987 0700
Walkabout Lodge T: 08 8939 2000
Garma is a fully catered event with three main meals per day along with morning and afternoon tea. Please check notice boards for kitchen schedules. We also have a Garma Café on site which opens daily for guests to purchase barista-made coffee, tea, and other café style beverages. Non-vegetarian and vegetarian meals will be on offer for all guests. For guests that have specific dietary needs, we ask that you advise us of any food allergies and intolerances so we can inform our caterers.
Note: Our Caterers will make every attempt to identify ingredients that may cause allergic reactions for those with food allergies. Every effort is made to instruct our food production staff on the severity of food allergies; however, there is always a risk of contamination. There is also a possibility that manufacturers of the commercial foods we use could change the formulation at any time, without notice. Customers concerned with food allergies need to be aware of this risk. The Yothu Yindi Foundation will not assume any liability for adverse reactions to foods consumed or items one may come in contact with while eating catered meals.
The Garma Festival is held in a remote bush location. Currently, we have limited facilities to cater to people with disabilities. We have one wheelchair-accessible toilet and shower facility on site. We are planning to better enable and accommodate guests in the future.
Toilets and Showers
There are operational toilets and hot showers on site.
There are no clothes washing facilities onsite. Please pack enough clothing to last you the entire duration of your stay.
What to Bring
Please see our What to Pack for Garma guide
Alcohol and drugs
Gulkula is a dry community, and the Festival is strictly a drug and alcohol-free event.
There are heavy penalties for persons taking and consuming alcohol and/or illegal drugs at the festival, patrons caught will be immediately escorted off-site by the local Police. We have police sniffer dogs on regular patrol during the festival.
Protocols and Conduct
You are guests on Yolngu land and entering Yolngu time. Yolngu perceptions, priorities, and preoccupations are different from those of mainstream Australia. Be patient, and try to leave at home your expectations of how things are learned, and how events should run. Traditionally Yolngu learn by observation, by looking, and by listening. Asking too many questions can be inappropriate. When you have questions, choose them carefully and thoughtfully.
Respect people’s personal space, particularly in the camping areas and each guest’s tent. Sticking to the walking paths provided is important to ensure you’re not stumbling across cultural space.
We ask that guests respect the community and stay within the festival areas and camping zones. Guests should NOT leave the Gulkula site on their own and should only walk along specifically marked trails. This is also for your own safety and wellbeing as we have wild buffalo wander this country and organisers spend considerable effort in monitoring their trails before Garma each year. Please ensure someone knows where you are traveling around the site. Avoid strolling around and visiting Yolngu campsites unless specifically invited and accompanied by Yolngu.
Please exercise courtesy and sensitivity when taking photographs – seek the permission of the Yothu Yindi Foundation and subjects if taking close-ups, or photographs of small groups, particularly in the women’s programs and men’s programs cultural and health sessions. The Yothu Yindi Foundation has enforced a strict Intellectual Property Policy that safeguards both individuals and Yolngu families when posting Garma to social media channels, please refer to the Intellectual Property Policy. You are reminded that we are working in a realistic environment of high mortality. Cultural protocols are strict for that matter and we ask guests to respect this process.
Treat the old people with the greatest of respect – they hold the knowledge and the power.
Dress conservatively and be sun-wise. Too much skin on display draws inadvertent attention not appropriate for this event. Schools attending the festival should advise their students of this policy. The dress standards also protect our participants from harsh weather conditions. Plan a sensible and modest wardrobe, covered shoes, and include a hat to protect you from the elements.
All children attending Garma must be registered with an accompanying adult. While the organisers will do everything in their power to make the site child-friendly, the responsibility for the care and wellbeing of children lies entirely with parent/s, carers, or guardians, please ensure that you supervise your children at all times.
Only Telstra mobile coverage is available at the Festival site, please check with your provider if they have connectivity in remote regions. We will have Telstra on-site with a SATCoW – Satellite Cell on Wheels that provides 3G connectivity for all guests.
Guests are welcome to take photos or make video recordings for your personal keepsakes, however, any use of images or video recordings for promotional or commercial use without the permission of the Yothu Yindi Foundation will breach cultural protocols and may be liable to legal action.
Refer to the YYF Media Use Policy.
Requests to use recordings and images for public viewing will need to be submitted to the Yothu Yindi Foundation Director of media and approved before use. You can make a request through our Contact Us page.
The festival runs during the dry season months; therefore, days are usually dry and hot with top temperatures of around 30 degrees, however at nighttime, the temperate can drop dramatically to around 13-15 degrees. We recommend that you bring warm clothes for the evening and early mornings.
If you are not accustomed to this type of climate, we strongly advise you to keep up a high fluid intake to avoid dehydration and wear a broad-brimmed hat to guard against the harsh sun. Although quite rare at this time of year we have the odd occasional rain showers, we also experience heavy dew in the mornings, therefore we suggest that when you are not occupying your tent that you keep it closed and zipped up to avoid your belongings getting wet.
Like most bushland in Australia, Gulkula has a healthy population of venomous snakes. If you see a snake, don't panic, do not touch it or attempt to move it yourself. Please notify a Garma crew member immediately so we can have the ranger safely remove it away from the site.
Wear insect repellents and cover-up at dusk and dawn to avoid mosquitoes. You may wish to bring a mosquito net as individuals’ reactions to bites vary.
Crocodiles (baru) inhabit the waters of Arnhem Land. They are not a threat at the Gulkula site which is atop an escarpment 100 metres above sea level. However, we do advise that caution should always be considered if venturing near water.
Sea wasps (box jellyfish) and other stingers exist in the ocean. It is highly recommended that you only enter the sea in the company and supervision of local guides. Note that there is a public swimming pool in Nhulunbuy where you will not have to worry about baru (crocodile), jellyfish, or stingers.
There is also a local population of wild buffalo. If seen, do not approach under any circumstances. Buffalo is known for their short tempers and are not appreciative of being interrupted. If you see a buffalo, retreat quietly. Please let a Garma crew member know immediately if you spot a buffalo so that a qualified ranger can assist in finding a safer place for it to go about its’ daily business.
We are introducing a cashless payment system for making purchases at the festival. There will be EFTPOS machines stationed at the Garma Cafe, Merchandise Store for card purchases.
A first-aid service is available onsite for minor injuries or ailments. Any serious conditions will be taken to the Nhulunbuy Hospital. As the festival is in a remote location with no pharmacy close by, we recommend that you bring all your medications with you. We have a fridge located in the administration office to store medicines that require refrigeration. Please advise the organisers if you have special needs or conditions.
Volunteering at Garma
Please check our Volunteering Page for further information
PO Box 42119
Casuarina NT 0811 Ph: 08 8945 5055