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Community gets behind Mahbilil Festival

07 September 2017

2017 saw a new version of the Mahbilil Festival with a new date and new location in Jabiru.
After taking place down by the lake for many years, the new venue was a big success, with far more room, shade, green grass and obviously - the pool. And though the move brought about a logistical challenge for the team, Jabiru once again showed its community spirit and everyone got behind it to make it happen, with most attendees suggesting that the festival be held there every year.
Mahbilil Festival Producer Scott Large said highlights of the day were a pumping workshop area, with natural fibre weaving being incredibly popular. Murle (didj) painting was also very well-attended. The bushfoods area was busy all day with hundreds of people flowing through to get hands-on with Magpie Goose preparation and cooking, demonstrations all day and the massive Gungerre ground-ovens opening. The Magpie Goose cooking competition is always a hit and this year a separate category for the chefs was held, and it was taken out by the chefs from Cooinda Lodge. The individual category was won by Chantel Lehmann, and the People’s Choice by Caitlin O’Connor.
Scott also said Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner also attended the festival, and gave a very interesting speech about the future of the town and celebrated one year in office by outlining some of his Governments plans for Indigenous partnerships across the NT.

The Gunborrk (traditional dance) session by the Wardekken crew was a huge highlight, kicking up sand in the golden afternoon light. This was followed by Sunshine Coast band OKA, who blew the crowd away with their fusion of traditional and future beats. The performance with students from the Jabiru Area School was a big hit with the crowd as always. Well done to the students and to Steve and Flick who facilitated the rehearsals and performance. 
The evening saw a beautiful exhibition of Yawk-Yawk works come to life, while the crowd was wooed by Gold Coast act Tijuana Cartel that got a heaving dance floor going!  Local band Black Rock Band took out the night with a rocking set with a huge response from the crowd.

Overall, Scott was full of praise for the spirit that Mahbilil brings out from the community.
“I am constantly impressed at the energy and enthusiasm that Jabiru and the whole Kakadu/ West Arnhem region shows for Mahbilil each year. The move of the site got everyone’s interest going and the feedback about the show we managed to put on in the new venue has been overwhelmingly positive.  Having the pool part of the event was great for kids and families and we saw a really increased number of people come down early on in the afternoon.  
“The numbers overall were significantly up and we estimate over 2000 people came through across the day and night. There was of course a great local turnout, but a noticeable increase of tourist and Darwin visitors which is really encouraging. The festival continues to grow its profile elsewhere and that is a positive step for the town and the region.  The future of this area sees cultural tourism as one of the primary economic drivers and Mahbilil indicated that people are really interested in local culture stories and will travel to attend special events.  Based on the hard work that has gone in over the last couple of years and the enthusiasm from this year’s event, we hope to expand the festival model next year, and grow the scope and profile of the event substantially”.
The Mahbilil team wishes to thank all our event partners:  Gundjeihmi, KWAST, ERA, WARC, Kakadu National Park and our supporters: Kakadu Tourism, Jabiru Foodland, Aurora Kakadu Lodge and Marrawuddi Gallery.  
There are a huge number of people that made the event a success this year, but special thanks to all the attendees for a really happy and safe celebration of Kakadu culture. See you all again next year!