Since 1978, Territorians have celebrated their self-government status each year on 1 July.


It has become one of the major calendar events across the Territory thanks to funding from the NT Government’s Major Events Company and Festivals NT. All Territory cities and towns host a significant community event to celebrate the identity of the Northern Territory and to take the opportunity to proudly fly the NT flag.

Barkly Regional Arts (BRA) were asked by Festivals NT to host the 2016 Tennant Creek event in collaboration with the Barkly Regional Council (BRC).

We really wanted to showcase the Barkly’s innovation when it comes to the arts and how we collaborate with major arts companies to immerse them into Territory culture for two-way learning.”

For the 2016 Territory Day, BRA approached Opera Australia (OA) and invited them to work with local aboriginal father and daughter duo, RAYELLA (Raymond and Eleanor Dixon). Having worked together in 2015, OA were delighted by the opportunity and engaged renowned Australian composer / arranger, Iain Grandage, to arrange the orchestral backing for RAYELLA music. Iain’s work, in collaboration with Erkki Weltheim, superbly complemented RAYELLA’S beautiful, and at times haunting, songs to provide a sound as big as the Barkly landscape.

Barkly Regional Arts and Opera Australia have worked together since 2007 and have developed some wonderful community engagement strategies. In 2013 our Winanjjikari Music Centre performed local music backed by the Opera Australia Chamber Orchestra that was live webcast to four remote Barkly communities. In 2015 a children’s chorus was immersed in the main production. These local children had the opportunity to sing and perform side by side the professional opera artists.


For Territory Day, the OA Chamber Orchestra travelled to Tennant Creek for a week of rehearsals and recordings to put the event together. During the course of the week we sent the OA Chamber Orchestra to learn about the local Tennant Creek Warumungu culture at the Nyinkka Nyunyu Art and Culture Centre and showed them around to some important sites. There was also important story sharing between Rayella and OA, as Rayella, who sings predominately in language, told what their songs were about and the connection to country.


On Friday 1 July, Opera Australia and Rayella performed to one of the largest Tennant Creek Territory Day crowds. Utilising the outdoor space of Purkiss Reserve football ground, the audience sat under the stars on long communal tables in the pop up restaurant put on by BRC. The sweet sounds of RAYELLA’S singing and the beautiful chords of the orchestra could be heard right across the community. As is tradition, the night ended with an incredible display of fireworks on the grounds to the delight of everyone – everyone except the local cheeky dogs! Tennant Creek was treated to a truly magical evening.

You can watch one of the songs from Territory Day here: https://vimeo.com/185602282

This event was produced by Barkly Regional Arts and Barkly Regional Council and funded by the NT Government- Festivals NT.


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