People have been gathering at Uluru for more than 10,000 years. Europeans came onto the scene a little over 100 years ago. The geological origins of the rock stretch back some 550 million years into the Neoproterozoic era. This year, people from all over the world met in the ancient surrounds of Uluru for the inaugural Tjungu Festival, held over the Anzac weekend.

Story By Mark Muller

‘Tjungu’ means ‘meeting together’ in the local Anangu language, and the festival is designed to showcase and celebrate local Anangu culture and Indigenous music and foods from wider afield, as well as the stunning natural grandeur of the Red Centre.
“It’s a beautiful place to be,” says multi-award-winning musician Shellie Morris, who played guitar and sang with local women during a special dinner under the stars overseen by chef Mark Olive on day two of the four-day festival. “The people are wonderful, and the environment is amazing.”
The festival is based in and around Ayers Rock Resort, on the outskirts of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. The resort is operated by Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia, and owned by the Indigenous Lands Council. While the resort is open year-round, and has a variety of regular activities and attractions such as dance classes, dinners and painting classes, the Tjungu Festival was developed as one of a wider series of events produced to encourage higher visitor numbers.
Visitors and locals were able to take part in these festivities, as well as the other offerings at Uluru such as camel tours, motorcycle rides and guided visits to the park.
Other highlights included a short film festival, pop-up circus performances, and the Tjungu Cup football match between the Mutitjulu Flies and the Yulara Cats. This spectacle saw former Sydney Swans champion Michael O’Loughlin mentor the two local teams, as well as take to the field himself for the Flies. “It was great,” Michael says. “But I’m getting too old to be running around on a footy field!”

This Story is from Issue #95

Outback Magazine: June/July 2014