Indigenous Cultural Festivals: Evaluating Impact on Community Health and Wellbeing
With the support of the Telstra Foundation and the Australian Research Council, RMIT researchers investigated the role and significance of Indigenous cultural festivals in wellbeing outcomes for Indigenous communities and their young people. We found that festivals really do matter to communities; from a proliferation of very small events celebrating local community life, to complex, large-scale events with a national and international profile. Whatever scale they operate at, festivals support communities in their efforts to maintain and renew themselves through the celebration of culture. In the search for practical outcomes it can be easy for policy-makers to overlook questions of culture as a marginal concern. By contrast, for many Indigenous communities culture is at the core of community life and their aspirations for a healthy and productive future. Culture has to be the starting point in any serious efforts to address Indigenous disadvantage with Indigenous people. Increasingly, agencies with responsibilities for Indigenous health, education, employment and other wellbeing outcomes are realising that cultural festivals are a powerful space for working effectively with communities on their own terrain: opening dialogue, engaging participation and working in partnerships to both imagine better futures and deliver results in these crucial areas.