Emerald Messenger

Belgrave Survival Day 2021
The annual celebratory festival, Belgrave Survival Day, was forced to turn away from Borthwick Park, down Pandemic Avenue, and into the Cameo Cinemas, back to where the Festival started 14 years ago. This time around, it was to offer an intimate screening of the movie ‘High Ground’. Surviving the brutal and unapologetic opening scene was an act of solidarity in itself, a true education of the complicated history of Australian colonialism.
It was the first Survival Day with rain since the event started in 2008. Many determined patrons still turned up at Borthwick Park, where the event is usually held, to find no stage, no music, but plenty of memories and reconciliation in mind. The park was empty, but hearts were full of hope.
This hope was palpable among the hundreds of local Hills community members who were fortunate to buy tickets to the sold out event. Together we learned about, stood with, and celebrated the indigenous history of Australia on the 26th January. Representatives from the partner organisations of Belgrave Survival Day, unwavering supporters, were present, including Burrinja, Yarra Ranges Local Council, and Mullum Mullum Indigenous Gathering Place.
The evening acknowledged the ongoing impact and trauma of colonisation in this country and for our first peoples. ‘High Ground’ included the perspectives of the Indigenous people and the white settlers, but it also treated viewers to the breathtaking scenery of the Northern Territory, including East Alligator River near Gunbalanya (Oenpelli), and Kakadu National Park.
The prescreen performer, Uncle Gnarnayarrahe Waitairie, often referred to as Uncle Joey, offered some personal anecdotes before the screening, along with some didgeridoo playing. The film showed a time of trouble, but Uncle Joey showed a time of hope.
The event is run by a committee of volunteers. One volunteer, Drew Pawley, said the Belgrave Survival Day committee was “relieved” to have found a way to run the event, however everyone is looking forward to reinstating the large scale event and welcoming the usual 3,000 plus participants next year. The event usually involves live performers from Indigenous backgrounds, a Welcome To Country and Smoking Ceremony, artwork, market stalls and bushtucker. “This year’s event was less energetic and contained, yet the atmosphere among the people was still great. Everyone had the sense of togetherness in challenging times,” Mr Pawley said.
Volunteer committee member Jo Henselwood, on the Committee for two years, believes it is a “privilege to be involved in such an inspiring event, and one way to show appreciation of, and learn about the local Indigenous cultures.”
The Belgrave Survival Day Committee is seeking new members. For the 2022 Survival go to survivalday@gmail.com or get in touch via the Facebook page, Belgrave Survival Day.

Belgrave Survival Day Committee

Categories: February 2021