Federation Square

Presented by Melbourne Festival & ILBIJERRI Theatre Company in association with the Bardas Family Foundation

Since 2013 the first words of Melbourne International Arts Festival come from those who have carried this land’s stories the longest—the First Peoples of Melbourne.

TANDERRUM is a ceremony bringing together the Wurundjeri/Woiwurrung, Boon Wurrung, Taungurung, Wadawurrung and Dja Dja Wurrung language groups of the Eastern Kulin Nation—a ceremony of celebration that reaches across Aboriginal time.

This sacred ceremony had been hidden since European invasion, until six years ago the Eastern Kulin brought TANDERRUM back to central Melbourne to open the Festival. Since then this cross-cultural moment has become an essential and living element of the Festival and a Welcome to Country for local and international artists and audiences.

Melbourne is sacred to the Traditional Custodians. Through this event we ensure that Aboriginal culture remains present and relevant to our city today. TANDERRUM is your invitation to share this sacred place.

“The Tanderrum was a moving ceremony which held many significances for us all – indigenous and immigrant alike – and may actually move us a long way towards our integrated future” - Samsara Dunston, Melbourne Arts Fashion, 2014 [Read More]

“A poignant exchange of story, song and dance…” - Simon Plant, Herald Sun, 2014 [Read More]

The Melbourne International Arts Festival opens with Tanderrum’, Radio National Books & Arts Daily, Friday 11 October 2013 [Listen Here]

"Here is a major international festival on Kulin country. There will be artists performing their song and dance from all over the world and it is so appropriate they will be welcomed and greeted and given permission to perform here by the custodians of this country who will give their blessing. It is such a beautiful practice" - Rachael Maza, The Age, 2013 [Read More]

“The opening event, Tanderrum, has been created by the acclaimed Ilbijerri Theatre Company, and fuses music, performance and storytelling from 40,000 years of Kulin culture” - Herald Sun, Friday 11 October 2013 [Read More]

“Thousands of people gathered on Friday night as the 2013 Melbourne Festival opened with a Tanderrum ceremony… It was tear inducing, and not just from the smoke”- Pictorial Melbourne

The clans of the Eastern Kulin


The five clans of the Central Kulin share many customs, beliefs and language. The name of each clan ends in ‘wurrung’ meaning mouth or lips, indicating that they each clans identity is based on its language. Wurundjeri is an exception to this rule as Wurundjeri was the last remaining clan group of Woiwurrung speakers and now use the umbrella term Wurundjeri to identify under. The original clans being Wurundjeri-balluk, Balluk-wilam, Marin-balluk, Kurungjang-buluk and Wurundjeri-wilam.

The traditional lands of the Wurundjeri include the Birrarung (Yarra River) watershed from the Yarra Valley to Melbourne. 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 in honour of friendship and the time of plenty.

An integral part of the Tanderrum is the highly valued walertwalert (possum skin cloak). Traditionally you are wrapped in one at birth, in initiation ceremonies, at marriage 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.


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 10,000 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 Bundjil who travelled as an eagle. The waterways were protected by Waang who travelled as a crow. Looern, a demi-god of the Boon Wurrung protected Wamoon, the land we now call Wilson’s Promontory.


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 Taungurung people utilised 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.


The Wadawurrung lived right across Wadawurrung country according to seasonal food sources, ceremonial obligations and trading relationships. The people conscientiously managed their land and waterways. They lived sustainably, cultivating root vegetables, bush medicines and other plants. They promoted grasslands and wild flowers by using controlled burns, eliminating the risk of wildfires. Fire was also good for hunting out game.

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 which 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.


Djaara 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. Bundjil (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.



Wurundjeri Aunty Di Kerr Aunty Irene Morris Mandy Nicholson

Boon Wurrung Aunty Carolyn Briggs

Wadawurrung Tammy Gilson Barry Gilson Corrina Eccles

Taungurung Aunty Bernadette Franklin Uncle Mick Harding Mark ten Buuren

Dja Dja Wurrung Aunty Fay Carter Wendy Berick Kayla Baksh


Uncle Jack Charles


Artistic Director Rachael Maza

Producer J-Maine Beezley

Production Manager Jake Jobling

Stage Manager Brock Brocklesby

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