Old welcome heralds New Year of recognition in Sydney

City of Sydney Rhoda Roberts AO - photo by Jamie WilliamsSydney’s iconic New Year’s Eve celebrations will see an age-old Aboriginal tradition of Calling Country that will welcome the International Year of Indigenous languages in 2019.

Calling Country is a ritual that will welcome all to Gadigal land. The ceremony will feature a series of animated projections, including water, birds, fish and plants beamed onto the Sydney Harbour Bridge pylons. The dynamic display will end with the words ‘welcome’ and ‘always will be’ in Gadigal language.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the City is committed to embedding First Nations stories in the public domain. “Our New Year’s Eve celebrations on Gadigal land are watched by more than a billion people around the world, making it the perfect opportunity to acknowledge that this was, and always will be, Aboriginal land,” said the Lord Mayor.

“The inclusion of Rhoda Roberts’ Calling Country this Sydney New Year’s Eve will acknowledge Australia’s Indigenous cultures on a global stage.”

Sydney New Year’s Eve creative director, Rhoda Roberts AO, says the cultural protocol “has been updated for the 21st century”, with real significance for the New Year. “UNESCO has named 2019 the International Year of Indigenous languages, so I think it is fitting that we end our new-look Welcome in words of the Gadigal that we can all embrace,” said Ms Roberts.

The five-minute display starts at 9.08pm on New Year’s Eve. The Sydney Harbour Bridge, harbour of light parade vessels and Luna Park’s ferris wheel, will for the first time, be lit up in red as part of the Calling Country ceremony.

Calling Country will also be part of the live ABC New Year’s Eve broadcast and outdoor concert at the Sydney Opera House, with a Welcome in language by Joel Davison accompanied by a musical performance led by Ngiyampaa man Eric Avery.

Joel’s grandfather, Gadigal Elder Uncle Ray Davison, will perform the traditional Welcome to Country and Smoking Ceremony on board the Tribal Warrior as it floats across Sydney Harbour from 7.30pm.

Calling Country is all about inclusion and bringing people together. We are drawing Welcome to Country into the future and inviting all to a deeper embrace of First Nations cultures and traditions. Calling Country is how Aboriginal people relate to country and how they are connected to every living thing, whether it’s a rock, tree, water or the ancestors who are always with us.”

“It is all about inclusion, and affording everyone this opportunity to join this cultural tradition. To call country keeps a tradition alive, to respect our mother and most importantly to remind us of the rare bounty country gifts us all.”

Ms Roberts drew on mythologies and images of land, sea, sky, water and travelling through country to reflect the traditional and contemporary connections to Sydney Harbour. “We are lucky enough to celebrate the dawning of a new year around this beautiful harbour that so many of us use for transport, for food and to swim in. It gives us joy and keeps us connected,” said Ms Roberts.

“This tradition connects with this year’s theme for New Year’s Eve – the pulse of Sydney. The harbour really is at the heart of this great city.”

For more information, visit: www.sydneynewyearseve.com for details.

Image: Rhoda Roberts AO (supplied)

Sydney New Year’s Eve event times:

6.00pm – Air displays start above Sydney Harbour by flying ace Matt Hall and Scott Bretland

7.00pm – Fire tug presents its water display on Sydney Harbour

7.30pm – Welcome to Country and Smoking Ceremony by the Tribal Warrior Association

8.00pm – Air displays continue above Sydney Harbour

8.30pm – Sydney Harbour Bridge pylon and bridge effects start

9.00pm – Family fireworks (8 minutes) includes the ABC Design Your Own Firework competition display

9.08pm – Calling Country segment honouring Australia’s Indigenous heritage

9.15pm – Harbour of Light Parade starts

11.00pm – New music moment

12.00am – Midnight fireworks (12 minutes)

1.00am – Sydney Harbour Bridge lighting effects end

2.00am – Sydney Harbour Bridge pylon projections end