Balit Ngulu

White Night Melbourne

Facilitated by ILBIJERRI Theatre Company

BALIT NGULU (Strong Voice) is a ceremony to Welcome you to Country and open White Night 2016.

The five language groups of the Eastern Kulin invite you to honour the generations of strong Aboriginal voices who have gathered on this site.

While many people associate the Royal Exhibition Building with the first Parliament of Australia, the nearby Moreton Bay fig tree was a birthplace for the Aboriginal political movement in Victoria.

The Wurundjeri, Boon Wurrung, Taungurung, Dja Dja Wurrung and the Wadawurrung gather here with family and kin to connect through bloodlines and cultural ties.

Through BALIT NGULU we acknowledge the law of our creator spirit Bunjil and pay respects to the vibrant and living culture of this land.

Join us as we perform the dance of Buln Buln, the lyrebird. Like our ancestors, Buln Buln speaks many languages. Through this dance we listen to their strong voices. We become the Buln Buln and speak the languages of our ancestors. Then we dance as one, the people of the Kulin Nation.

In ceremonies there was traditionally no distinction between participants and the audience. With this in mind we invite you to join us in celebration. Like a lyrebird we ask you to watch and listen to those around you and, when you feel comfortable, please join in from your spot in the crowd.

In 2015 Buln Buln was the final dance of TANDERRUM, the traditional ceremony of the Kulin Nation that opens Melbourne Festival each year.

BALIT NGULU is supported by the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust.


Kulin Nations


The Taungurung people are closely affiliated with neighbouring tribes, through language, ceremonies and kinship ties. Taungurung are part of the Kulin Nation. The Kulin Nation mob also share common Dreamtime ancestors and creation stories, religious beliefs and economic and social relationships. The Taungurung people share a common bond in moiety with the other tribes. Our world was divided into two moieties: Waang (Crow) and Bunjil (Wedge Tail Eagle). The nomadic nature of the Taungurung people enabled us to utilise the resources available in our vast Country. Our Ancestors had an intimate knowledge of their environment and were able to sustain the ecology of each region and exploit the food available.

Dja Dja Wurrung

Jaara means people of the Dja Dja Wurrung speaking language group. Dja Dja Wurrung people have lived on our traditional lands and cared for our Country over many thousands of years. For us, Country is more than just the landscape, it is more than what is visible to the eye—it is a living entity, which holds the stories of creation and histories that cannot be erased. Our dreaming stories of Djandak (Country) explain the creation of our lands and how Dja Dja Wurrung people evolved. Bunjil (Wedge Tail Eagle) is our creator and helps us to understand our connections to each other through his law. Mindi, the giant serpent, is his enforcer implementing the laws and ceremonies that ensure the continuation of life.


The Wurundjeri people speak the Woi wurrung language. The Wurundjeri have lived in the Melbourne area from time immemorial. In times of plenty, large gatherings occurred between different language groups, called TANDERRUM. These were for trade, initiation, marriage exchange, to discuss politics and to have a feast and celebration. An integral part of the TANDERRUM is the highly valued walert-walert (possum skin cloak). Traditionally you are wrapped in one at birth, in initiation ceremonies, when you were married, and you are buried with your cloak. With the resurgence of Wurundjeri ceremony and cloak making, they are still being used in Wurundjeri ceremonies today.

Boon Wurrung

The Boon Wurrung are the traditional people and custodians of the lands from the Werribee River to Wilson Promontory. The Boon Wurrung were an extended language-based family group, consisting of six clans: Yallukit Willam, Ngaruk Willam, Mayune Baluk, Boon Wurrung Balug, Yownegerra and the Yallock Balluk. They were part of the larger confederation or nation of the Kulin (the people). The Boon Wurrung has a very strong and detailed oral history that recalled events estimated to be ten thousand years old. The descendants of the Boon Wurrung continue to live in the greater Melbourne area and take an active role in maintaining and protecting their cultural heritage. The land of the Boon Wurrung was protected by Bunjil who travelled as an eagle. The waterways were protected by Waa who travelled as a crow. Looern, a demi-god of the Boon Wurrung, protected Wamoon, the land we now call Wilson’s Promontory.


The Wadawurrung is a group that exists within the Wathaurong group. The Wadawurrung ranged over a wide area according to seasonal food sources, ceremonial obligations and trading relationships. The people conscientiously managed their land by building substantial houses, cultivating root vegetables and promoting grasslands by using controlled winter fire to promote the best conditions for plants and game while eliminating the risk of wildfire in summer. They were particularly good at cultivating and harvesting Old Man Weed, which is a very effective healing plant used for curing colds and chest infections. The Creation Stories and the spiritual places that can be found right across Wadawurrung land are testament to the way the people lived in harmony with the environment. This strong sense of spirituality and connection with the land enabled the Wadawurrung people to survive in a constantly changing landscape. They continue this tradition today.


Artistic Directorate Jacob Boehme, Mandy Nicholson (Wurundjeri), Marbee Williams (Boon Wurrung), Trent Nelson (Dja Dja Wurrung), Tammy Gilson (Wadawurrung), Mark Ten Buuren (Taungurung)


Choreography Jacob Boehme, Mariaa Randall & Mandy Nicholson


Composer James Henry


Producers Jacob Boehme, Lisa Parris, Ilana Russell & Naretha Williams


Stage Manager Margie Mackay


Assistant Stage Managers Barry Gilson & Kate Ten Buuren

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