30 May 2024

Iconic Laura festival under threat of becoming ‘memory’

| Cape York Weekly
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The CEO of Ang-Gnarra Aboriginal Corporation says the future of the iconic Laura Quinkan Dance Festival is in doubt due to funding concerns. Photo: Supplied.

The future of the biennial Laura Quinkan Dance Festival could be in jeopardy if a funding gap cannot be closed, says the boss of Ang-Gnarra Aboriginal Corporation (AAC).

The festival is a must-attend event for hoardes of Cape York locals and visitors every two years, but AAC chief executive officer August Stevens said there were concerns the 2025 edition may not go ahead.

“All in all, the cost to produce and operate the event is an enormous sum, more than $600,000,” he said.

“Funding has been a constant issue over time; this has required grant applications to the Queensland Government departments for financial support to produce the event each two years.

“The applications for funding involve a myriad of hurdles to clear and a time lapse to await an outcome of approve or not approve.

“Some smaller donations were made by service providers wanting association with the event, and most of the other required income has been made up with ticket and vendor sales.”

Co-ordination of the three-day festival, which has been running since the 1980s, was taken back by AAC in 2018, and Mr Stevens said the organisation had been the only one to reinvest in infrastructure maintenance and upgrades at the Laura site.

READ ALSO Laura Quinkan Dance Festival a celebration of tradition and culture

“Ang-Gnarra Aboriginal Corporation has been the only entity to build and repair infrastructure on the site over time, however, this has not been the case lately, with the 2021 festival breaking even, and the 2023 event costing [the organisation] $60,000 out of its own business finances,” he said.

“As a business, our corporation can no longer afford to operate or produce this iconic Indigenous event just to break even or [go] into debt.

“Without making a profit that can be ploughed back into new infrastructure for the site, the cost to stage future events will only skyrocket over time, and will only remain a memory.”

When asked if he believed there was a simple solution to the funding crisis, Mr Stevens said the cultural and economic importance of the festival should make ongoing financial support a priority for the State Government.

Should the [festival] fail to continue … then it will become a very sad time for an iconic event on the Queensland tourism calendar,” he said.

“The event has always attracted people from afar; it has enabled visitors to meet, yarn and mingle with Australian First Nations people in their own backyard in Laura.”

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