A bold idea to create a festival around the 30th anniversary of the handback of Nitmiluk Gorge to Jawoyn people has paid dividends with thousands of people attending events held over the 10 days.

The Nitmiluk Festival, which ran from 6-15 September, featured an array of free and ticketed events including a sunset concert nestled in the ancient Nitmiluk gorge, a family fun day with wildlife and water activities at Leliyn (Edith Falls) and bird spotting expeditions for the Katherine Bird Week alongside gourmet food and wine events and community markets and films.

The events on offer were scheduled around official anniversary celebrations, which were held at Nitmiluk on Tuesday 10 September.

Nitmiluk Tours chief executive officer Jane Runyu-Fordimail says all of the ticketed events were sold out.

“It was such a fantastic result to have everything from the Concert in the Gorge through to the gourmet events at our award winning Cicada Lodge sold out,” Ms Runyu-Fordimail said.

“The festival committee worked hard to make sure the program was diverse and offered something for everyone – from families to foodies and twitchers.

“We wanted to make sure there were plenty of free events for people to enjoy and those that were ticketed were subsidised to make sure they were affordable.

“The success of the festival has also gone a long way to show there are many people interested in getting out and about to enjoy nature, art and culture during what is the traditional tourism shoulder season in the Top End.”

Jawoyn Association chief executive officer John Berto said significant investment was made into the festival and it has paid off.

“We’ve had so much positive feedback about the event and people are asking if it’ll be run again next year,” Mr Berto said.

“It would be great to run the Nitmiluk Festival annually and we believe we’ve proved that it works.

“A 10-day festival involves a huge amount of work, much of which came through in-kind investment from the festival committee and key stakeholders – in particular, Nitmiluk Tours, Nitmiluk National Park and Jawoyn Association staff did the majority of the heavy lifting.

“It required signficant investment to make the festival such a success.

“We believe there’s a very strong business case for an annual festival at Nitmiluk but it’s a case of watch this space.”

Jawoyn chairperson Lisa Mumbin says the festival was designed to celebrate what can be achieved through collaboration – and the festival proved this in its own right.

“From the exhibition curated by staff at the Godinymayin Yijard Rivers Arts & Culture Centre, to the Katherine Information Centre who helped run the bird week, the Katherine Regional Arts who managed the concerts, and the Australian Defence Force who helped entertain and feed the masses, the festival involved so many groups from across the region.

“The Nitmiluk Festival was a wonderful celebration of country, culture and community and a place that holds a special place in our hearts.

“We hope those who came to one or more of the many events on offer had a special time as together we celebrated 30 years of sharing.

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