The Shearwaters are celebrated as symbols of local and global interconnectedness. This year, the Shearwater Festival focussed on ‘Connecting to Country’ providing opportunities to learn about Aboriginal culture and the environment and to develop a deeper understanding of place. The festival took place on 25, 26 and 27 of November in various locations across Phillip Island.
There was motion on the ocean Friday night but for those who braved the cold wind and swell it was an inspiring excursion as the festival began with a boat trip around Cape Woolamai to see thousands of Shearwaters at sunset getting ready to fly back to their rookeries with the days the catch.
A packed program of non-stop quality musicians took to the stage for Saturday’s concert on Churchill Island, including the award winning Kutcha Edwards who recently received the Melbourne Prize for Music which is awarded to a Victorian musician whose work has made an outstanding contribution to Australian music and has enriched cultural and public life. Kutcha also took time to share stories and speak with local community in the yarning circle.
Sunday saw the introduction of new events to this year’s festival including the Cape Woolamai Fun Run which aims to get the community out and see the habitat of the Shearwaters and to encourage healthy life styles and learning about nature. The street parade, workshops, smoking ceremony, presentations and a twilight walk also took place on Sunday.
Preceding the Festival was the Shearwater Education Program which is facilitated in local schools and includes visits from artists, musicians, environmentalists and Community Elders and Respected Peoples. Linked to the Festival and the Education Program is the Cross-Cultural Message Exchange, in which artworks and messages are shared between artists, children and Indigenous Elders around the world.
Scroll down to see an image gallery from this years festival
The Boon Wurrung word for the short-tailed shearwater is Biyadin. The bird is also known as Yolla, Muttonbird, Moonbird and Ardenna Tenuirostris. The shearwaters have deep cultural significance for the Boon Wurrung people, having brought the community together for thousands of years for feasts, gatherings and ceremonies, on what is now called Phillip Island.
The fourth Shearwater Festival was held on November 21st & 22nd, an annual creative, cultural and environmental event which brings Indigenous and non-Indigenous community members together to celebrate the return of the short-tailed shearwaters from their 15,000 kilometre migration. The shearwaters are celebrated as symbols of local and global interconnectedness.
This year's festival included a street parade, workshops, performances and guided walks and talks to the shearwater rookeries. The festival warmly welcomed members of refugee communities who now live in Australia, featuring a special concert 'Womin djeka Africa' (Welcome Africa) in which African and Indigenous performers collaborated in performance, art, music and song.
Preceding the festival is the Shearwater Education Program which is facilitated in local schools and includes visits from artists, musicians, environmentalists and Indigenous Elders. Linked to the festival and education program is the Cross-Cultural Message Exchange, in which artworks and messages are shared between artists, children and Indigenous Elders around the world. This year's festival featured Indigenous artists and community leaders from First Nations in Canada and the USA.
Scroll down to see images from this year's festival and a film titled 'Interwoven', concieved by Rachel Mounsey, commissioned by the Shearwater Festival and featuring poetry by Taungurung artist Mick Harding and Adnyamathanha Elder Uncle Dennis Seymour.
Countdown to Shearwater Festival
Shearwater Festival 2014, November 22 and 23 November, Phillip Island
The shearwater birds have arrived back from on Phillip Island after their 15,000 kilometres migration from the Bering Sea near Alaska. Phillip Island’s third Shearwater Festival is gearing up to welcome them home and celebrate their safe return. The Shearwater Festival is a creative, cultural and environmental initiative which brings communities together to celebrate the migration of the short-tailed shearwaters.
This year’s Shearwater Festival will be held on Saturday 22nd and Sunday 23rd November, with an Education Program in local schools preceding it. The Shearwater Festival involves school children, creative artists, musicians, Indigenous Elders, community members and visitors. The short-tailed shearwaters are celebrated as symbols of creative, cultural and environmental interconnectedness.
A Shearwater Hub has been established at Phillip Island Community and Learning Centre (PICAL) in Cowes. Over the next six weeks, Annie Edney, the Artist-in-Residence for the Shearwater Festival will be making a large nest and a giant shearwater, ‘Mama Moonbird’ who will be leading the Street Parade down Thompson Ave in Cowes at 11.00am on Saturday 22nd November. Mama Moonbird will be accompanied by lanterns and puppets and made by local school children, artists and community members.
Annie Edney is a well-known artist and facilitator of community events who used to live on Phillip Island. Annie was involved in designing Festivals and Street Parades on the Island twenty years ago.
In the weeks leading up to the Festival, Annie has an Open Studio every Monday at PICAL from 11.00am to 1.00pm at the Shearwater Hub (Room 2 in the Garden House, 56-58 Church St, Cowes). Community members are welcome to pop in and see Annie at work and learn how to make a bamboo lantern or puppet themselves.
PICAL is having an Open Day on Sunday 2nd November from 10am – 2.00pm. The Shearwater Hub will be open for visitors that day as well. The Shearwater Festival Working Group is delighted to have the Shearwater Hub located in the heart of the vibrant community activities at PICAL.
The two-day Shearwater Festival begins on Saturday morning 22nd November with a colourful Street Parade along Thompson Avenue in Cowes and will feature Mama Moon Bird, sea creature puppets made and carried by local school children, music and dance and the Bass Coast Boogie Band.
The Street Parade will make its way down Thompson Avenue to the Cowes Foreshore where a group of Indigenous dancers and local Indigenous school children will perform a dance choreographed especially for the event. Senior Boon Wurrung Elder Aunty Carolyn Briggs will officially welcome people to Boon Wurrung Country with a smoking ceremony.
On Saturday afternoon there will be creative and cultural workshops and performances at the Cowes Cultural Centre. These include singing, dancing and drumming workshops, Indigenous story-telling and an opportunity to learn to play the gumleaf with well-known Aboriginal Elder, Uncle Herb Patten. A participative ritual and performance completes the day.
In the early evening, Graeme Burgan, Senior Education Ranger at the Phillip Island Nature Park, will conduct an environmental talk on the latest research on the shearwater birds at the Cape Woolamai Surf Life Saving Club. He will also lead dusk and dawn walks at Cape Woolamai to see the shearwaters return at dusk and take off at dawn from their rookeries.
The Sunday Concert at the Cowes Cultural Centre on Sunday 23rd November will feature high profile Indigenous musicians Archie Roach, Kutcha Edwards and Yirrmal and the Yolngu Boys as well as members of the Deep Listening Band and Friends, Steve Sedergreen, Mike Jordan, Ron Murray, Rob Bundle, Marcia Howard and Rose Bygrave.
Tickets for the Shearwater Festival 2014 can be purchased on-line at www.shearwaterfestival.com.au Tickets for the Saturday workshops and performances are $20. The Welcome Home Concert on Sunday is $30. All proceeds from the tickets goes to the Victorian Aboriginal Corporation of Languages, an organisation dedicated to language revival, cultural regeneration and the celebration of Aboriginal culture.
In 2013, the Shearwater Festival was awarded the Tidy Towns Sustainable Communities Awards for Community Action Leadership.The Shearwater Festival is auspiced by the Victorian Aboriginal Corporation of Languages and sponsored by the Bass Coast Shire in partnership with Phillip Island Nature Park. The Bendigo Bank, District Aboriginal Corporation and Ramada Resort Phillip Island are also contributing support to the Festival this year.
For further information about the Shearwater Festival, go to
Shearwater Festival Working Group Representative
You can see short films about previous Festivals …
Shearwater Festival 2012 https://vimeo.com/58521654
You can hear Education Ranger Graeme Burgan from the Phillip Island Nature Park talking about the short-tailed shearwaters on http://www.abc.net.au/local/audio/2011/10/06/3333621.htm