June 1, 2021 | By Bronwen Largier

The Garma Festival in remote Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory has been cancelled for a second year due to the pandemic.

Organisers of the festival, the Yothu Yindi Foundation, announced the cancellation via a statement on their website on Monday, which opened with their “enormous regret and sadness” that the event would not go ahead.

The statement said that six months of planning had gone into ensuring delivery of an event that would minimise the risk of the virus being brought into the community by the festival, including testing interstate arrivals when they arrived at the festival and having a 24-hour COVID-19 clinic onsite at the event, staffed by the National Critical Care & Trauma Response Centre, which was responsible for the successful management of the Howard Springs quarantine facility until recently, when management was transitioned to the Northern Territory Government.

According to their statement, “Organisers were confident that these and other safety measures were rigorous enough to all but eliminate the public health risk associated with staging the event”.

However, the Territory’s Chief Health Officer pulled the pin on the event due to the risks posed by COVID in the festival’s remote setting. There is an airport which services medical evacuations around 20km from the event site.

The NT’s Acting Chief Health Officer Charles Pain said Victoria’s current COVID-19 outbreak was a significant factor in the event being cancelled.

The event usually immerses 2,500 attendees in Aboriginal culture and contributes around $13 million to the territory’s economy, as well as being an important discussion forum for Aboriginal and other issues facing Australia.

The mission of the event’s organiser, the Yothu Yindi Foundation is to help Indigenous Australians have the same wellbeing and life opportunities as non-Indigenous Australians.

Image: From the Garma Festival Facebook page