Purrumpa: an empowering forum for First Nations Culture

The largest national gathering of First Nations arts and culture in 50 years will held on Country in October.

Purrumpa is a Kaurna language word meaning ‘to flourish or blossom’, and so is a fitting match for a new event to be staged by the Australia Council for the Arts in October.

Purrumpa will be a national gathering of First Nations arts, artists and culture, the largest ‘coming together’ for the sector in 50 years.

The event will be held over five days on Kaurna Yerta at the Adelaide Convention Centre, from 31 October to 4 November 2022. 

In 1973, a similar milestone event was held by the newly formed Australia Council’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board, to set out policy and guidelines designed to encourage First Nations people around the country to participate in a broad range of arts activities.  Around 400 representatives from across the country attended.

However, until now, that important platform for discussion has not been repeated.

Australia Council Executive Director for First Nations Arts and Culture Franchesca Cubillo said: ‘Purrumpa is set to be a momentous occasion as we celebrate the achievements of the past five decades and reflect on what the next 50 years could look like.’

Cubillo told ArtsHub that it was about shaping a collective national voice. ‘Purrumpa is particularly timely this year given discussions around an Indigenous Voice to Parliament, as well as the development of a National Cultural Policy. We want to ensure First Nations arts and culture are firmly embedded in both.’

Read: Writing your National Cultural Policy submission

‘At this stage we are trying to secure additional funding to provide subsidies to attend, an update will be provided in September,’ Cubillo continued.

‘In addition, there are discounts on tickets for school and tertiary students, concession card holders and those currently unemployed. Purrumpa is priced to encourage affordability and accessibility.’

The program will include a mix of activity, including opportunities for deep listening and respectful engagement, performances, spoken word, workshops, keynote speeches, ceremony, yarning circles and storytelling across multiple artforms.

‘Purrumpa will include deep listening, as well as important conversations about First Nations peoples’ self-determination, development, and priorities for the national advocacy of First Nations arts and culture,’ explained Cubillo.

The five-day event will also ‘bring First Nations peoples and communities together after a period of isolation and separation due to the pandemic,’ she said.

Purrumpa is part of the anniversary of the establishment of the Australia Council’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board 50 years ago.

Use of the word ‘Purrumpa’ has been generously gifted to the project by Kaurna Elder Uncle Lewis O’Brien.

The Australia Council is currently calling for expressions of interest from First Nations creatives, performers, arts administrators and directors, musicians, Elders, poets, dancers, authors, arts workers and thought leaders who would like to be involved.

Purrumpa is an initiative of the Australia Council for the Arts, together with the First Nations Strategy Panel. It has been supported by South Australian Government.

First Nations artists, organisations and communities are invited to keep up to date and follow the journey to Purrumpa by joining the dedicated mailing list.

Gina Fairley is ArtsHub's National Visual Arts Editor. For a decade she worked as a freelance writer and curator across Southeast Asia and was previously the Regional Contributing Editor for Hong Kong based magazines Asian Art News and World Sculpture News. Prior to writing she worked as an arts manager in America and Australia for 14 years, including the regional gallery, biennale and commercial sectors. She is based in Mittagong, regional NSW. Twitter: @ginafairley Instagram: fairleygina