Aboriginal Australia

Oenpelli: An Open Door Festival
By Jeff Burdick
  |  Gorp.com

I also timed my visit to Arnhemland to take advantage of one more visitation option open to outsiders. Every August, the Aboriginal town of Oenpelli hosts its "Open Day Festival." This is the one day each year that visitors can visit Arnhemland without a permit.

Oenpelli is home to about 1,000 native people from the Kunwinjku tribe. For the festival, they stage an inter-tribe Australian Rules football tournament and run a number of short excursions along the river and to local rock-art sites. In the Oenpelli school yard, exhibit booths are erected and performances of native dancing and music are staged throughout the day. During my visit, locals sold foods such as roast turtle (still in the shell), and the Injalak Arts and Crafts Center had long lines trailing out its door all day long.

When I flew from Oenpelli back to the wilderness camp in the afternoon, I was astonished to see how quickly the Aboriginal town completely disappeared into the tropical bush. It seemed symbolic of all Aboriginal culture: often overlooked but, once experienced, impossible to forget.

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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