The Furneaux Islands Festival is an opportunity to come together and celebrate where we live, the strength that is our shared culture and community, and in so doing, celebrate Australia’s multicultural heritage.
The Furneaux Islands Festival started in 2014 as a Flinders Council initiative and is a small but growing festival held over 3 days at various locations on Flinders Island with a number of community events held around Australia Day.
Over the years 2012 – 2013, a number of Flinders Council workshops were held to discuss options for an inclusive Australia Day celebration as it was recognised by Elected Members that celebrating on the 26th of January created a divisive nature to a large proportion of the Islands’ community and the date evoked strong negative feelings on a day that is intended to be a celebration of our National Day.
In response to this, in November 2013 Council supported a motion put forward by the Mayor and the first Furneaux Islands Festival was created. There were no activities on Australia Day the 26th January – however, the day was kept free for community members to chose how they would like to spend it.
At the time of the Council Motion two local residents, Judy Jacques and Sandro Donati, were curating an exhibition on the history of music and dance on the Furneaux Islands – the exhibition was held at the Furneaux Museum located at Emita on Flinders Island.
This exhibition had a strong Aboriginal component, and highlighted the first recordings of Aboriginal singer Fanny Cochrane Smith in 1896. It also highlighted the unique string band music that evolved on Cape Barren Island through the Brown Brothers in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, along with the islands balls, dances, theatre productions, local musicians and performers and just about everything to do with music and dance up to now.
Judy and Sandro were planning a music event to link with their museum exhibition and it all made sense to join the Council supported Australia Day event with the music event… and so the Festival was created.
“Flinders Council recognises the diverse backgrounds of islanders, Aboriginal and European, and has chosen to support a community initiated event on Saturday the 25th January to celebrate being Australian and to celebrate living in the Furneaux Group, a place of unique beauty and fertile land and sea.”
In 2015, to help build upon the successes of an inclusive Australia Day event, the Flinders Island Aboriginal Association Incorporated (FIAAI) partnered with the Council to present the 2016 Furneaux Islands Festival.
A highlight of the Festival program is the Community Concert & BBQ as an opportunity for the community to come together and enjoy music from the Furneaux Region and beyond, celebrating the greatness of the place in which we live and acknowledging the history that makes these Island communities what they are today: diverse, strong, resourceful and caring.
Flinders Council’s Festival event manager at the time, Jana Harper and 2014/15 Festival program producer, Sandro Donati were invited to present on the Festival at the State Australia Day Conference in 2014.
Jana was also invited as a Keynote Speaker at the 2015 National Australia Day Conference held on the Gold Coast to present on the topic of Reconciliation and Australia Day on Flinders Island that encouraged discussion on other options for how to celebrate being Australian on our National Day that is inclusive to the whole community.
Celebrating being Australian during the Festivals reiterated the National Australia Day Council’s tag line of #AustraliaDay – Your way (2015) that also provided the option to the community of choosing how they would like to spend the 26th January.