Phillip Island,

Shearwater Festival Wins State-wide Community HART Award 2015

Media release courtesy of Dr Laura Brearley on behalf of the Shearwater Festival Working Group


The Shearwater Festival has been awarded the Community HART Award for 2015 in the Community Organisation category. The Shearwater Festival Working Group coordinates the Shearwater Festival and the Shearwater Education Program, now in its fourth year.

The Shearwater Festival is auspiced by the Victorian Aboriginal Corporation of Languages (VACL) and led by a partnership of The Bass Coast Shire Council and the Phillip Island Nature Park. The Festival Working Group is comprised of a cross-section of community members and staff from VACL, Bass Coast Shire Council and the Phillip Island Nature Park.

The Community HART Awards are presented in partnership between the Victorian Local Government Association and Reconciliation Victoria. The Awards celebrate projects in which local governments and community organisations are Helping Achieve Reconciliation Together.

The projects featured in the 2015 Community HART Awards bring people together through the Arts, through raising awareness and through deep listening. All of the projects contribute to creating new stories of cultural regeneration and healing. The importance of caring for each other in community has long been recognised by Indigenous people around the world. The Community HART Awards celebrate this.

The Award ceremony opened with Mutti Mutti musician and community leader Kutcha Edwards singing and telling stories. At the beginning of the event, Kutcha invited a member of the audience up to the stage and shook his hand. He said ‘Some people think reconciliation is about shaking hands but I think it is more about this …’ and he enfolded the audience member in a large and generous embrace.

Deep and respectful listening which builds community is central to the Shearwater Festival and the Education Program. The Festival is a creative, cultural and environmental event which brings communities together to celebrate the return of the shearwaters from their 15,000 kilometre migration.

The Shearwater Festival includes a Street Parade, workshops, performances, guided walks and talks to the shearwater rookeries. It involves environmental educators, creative artists, musicians, Indigenous Elders, community members and school children. At the Festival, the short-tailed shearwaters are celebrated as symbols of local and global interconnectedness.

The Festival is preceded by a Shearwater Education Program in local schools which includes excursions and visits from artists, musicians, environmentalists and Aboriginal Elders. During the Education Program, students, teachers and community members are supported to create puppets, songs and dances with environmental themes which are featured in the Street Parade.

The theme of the Shearwater Festival in 2015 is ‘Caring for Country’. It will take place on November 21 and 22 on Phillip Island. In 2015, the Festival will feature Shearwater Short Tales, a series of creative collaborations between artists, performers and environmental educators across Gippsland.

Community members will be supported to develop short productions of ten minutes or less in theatre, song, music, dance, poetry, film or mixed media. Shearwater Short Tales will be performed at the Cowes Cultural Centre over the course of the Shearwater Festival weekend.

The Shearwater Festival Working Group would like to thank the Victorian Local Government Association and Reconciliation Victoria for being honoured with the Community HART Award in the Community Organisation Category for 2015. We deeply appreciate the work of the HART Award organisers for raising our awareness about all of the wonderful projects and partnerships taking place in other communities across Victoria. It is an honour to be part of this wider community and we thank the Victorian Local Government Association and Reconciliation Victoria for bringing us together.

We would also like to thank Kerri Ritchie from the Bass Coast Shire Council for the HART Award nomination. Finally, in the spirit of Kutcha Edwards’ deep and heartfelt embrace during the HART Award ceremony, we thank the community for its strong support and active participation in creating new stories of cultural regeneration, healing and caring for country. We warmly welcome you to the Shearwater Festival 2015 happening on Phillip Island on November 21 and 22.