On the eve of Australia Day, the University of Newcastle, in partnership with Awabakal Ltd and with support from the City of Newcastle, is proud to host Ngarrama — a free public event to engage the community in meaningful reconciliation through truth telling and historical acceptance.
Inspired by Sydney’s Vigil at Barangaroo, now in its fourth year, Ngarrama will celebrate the rich culture of all First Nations people, in particular the Awabakal and Worimi peoples, the traditional owners of the land upon which Newcastle now stands.
Ngarrama translates to ‘to sit, listen and know’. As the name captures, it will be a time for listening and quiet reflection through the sharing of stories, knowledge and culture.
University of Newcastle Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous Strategy and Leadership, Mr Nathan Towney, said the inaugural Ngarrama event on January 25 was a powerful opportunity for the Newcastle community to come together to reflect on traditional life before 1788 and to celebrate the richness and resilience of First Nations culture.
“At the University of Newcastle, we believe we are all enriched by cultural knowledge and a connection to country. As a place of learning, we know we have an important role to play in engaging our wider community through knowledge sharing.
“The success of the Vigil in Sydney has shown that there is a real appetite in the community to reconcile with our nation’s past through reflection, truth telling and learning. We are proud to bring a similar opportunity to Newcastle,” Mr Towney said.
The program, which will run from 7pm-9pm in King Edward Park, will include a smoking ceremony, welcome to country, traditional dance, music, storytelling and knowledge sharing.
Mr Towney said Ngarrama would provide a clear space for traditional ceremony, acknowledgement and cultural celebration.
“It will be an opportunity for our community to access some of the incredible knowledge, talent and passion that is held among staff and students of our University and local community.”
Vice-Chancellor, Professor Alex Zelinsky AO, said the University of Newcastle was immensely proud of its longstanding commitment to Indigenous higher education, innovation and engagement.
“As a leader within the Newcastle community we are committed to meaningful engagement and community collaboration for reconciliation,” Professor Zelinsky said.
“Our regions are home to the fastest growing population of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia. Culture is strong and there is a thirst from non-Indigenous parts of our community to connect with, and learn from, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.”
“I invite the community to join us at Ngarrama where there will be a valuable opportunity to learn more about Aboriginal culture,” Professor Zelinsky said.
Chief Executive Officer of Awabakal Limited Raylene Gordon said Ngarramawas a free, family-friendly event where community members were encouraged to bring their picnic rug, favourite snack and drink and join together on the grass of Newcastle’s spectacular King Edward Park.
“‘In this beautiful setting we will connect to country and reflect on the stories we hear but also the stories the land and waters around us hold,” Mrs Gordon said.
Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said City of Newcastle was pleased to support Ngarrama and provide the local community with an opportunity to come together to connect with, learn about and recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, history and legacy.
“Our city’s rich indigenous culture deserves to be recognised and it’s important for all members of our community to contemplate life before the arrival of the First Fleet in the true spirit of reconciliation,” Cr Nelmes said.
“City of Newcastle is committed to strengthening relationships, trust and respect between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the broader community, and there is so much we can learn from First Nations peoples who have been caring for this continent for tens of thousands of years.
“We’re proud to support the inaugural Ngarrama event, which will bring our culture to the fore through dance, song and stories.”
Ngarrama will be held from 7pm – 9pm on 25 January at King Edward Park.