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


Federation Square
04 October 2017, 6:30 PM - 04 October 2017

Ngulu-bulok. Ngarrga. Nurru-nurru. Yinga. 
Stories. Dance. Ochre. Song.

Each year the first words of Melbourne Festival come from those who have carried this land’s stories the longest—the First Peoples of Melbourne.

Tanderrum is a ceremony of the five clans of the Central Kulin Nation—a communal celebration that reaches across time to a tradition that has been hidden since European arrival. Five years ago the Kulin Nation brought Tanderrum back to central Melbourne to open the Festival. This cross-cultural moment has quickly become an essential and living element of Melbourne Festival, and a Welcome to Country for local and international artists and audiences.

This year’s Tanderrum will end with a Kulin Nation tribute to the murrup (spirit) of William Barak. Barak was Ngurungeta—a leader, warrior and spokesperson for Wurundjeri Country. For the final dance the Kulin Nation invite you to join them for a song reclaimed from rare historical recordings of Barak.

With sand, fire, leaves and bark a space is made, and it’s a space to be shared.



“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


Tanderrum is performed by clans of the Kulin Nations and directed by their Elders and a steering committee of the following people.

Steering Group

Wurundjeri Aunty Di Kerr

Wurundjeri Aunty Irene Briggs

Wurundjeri Mandy Nicholson

Boon Wurrung Aunty Carolyn Briggs

Taungurung Mark Ten Buuren

Taungurung Angela Ten Burren

Taungurung Mick Harding

Taungurung Aunty Bernadette Franklin

Dja Dja Wurrung Aunty Fay Carter

Dja Dja Wurrung Wendy Berick

Dja Dja Wurrung Trent Nelson

Wadawurrung Uncle Bryon Powell

Wadawurrung Corrina Eccles

Wadawurrung Tammy Gilson

Wadawurrung Barry Gilson

ILBIJERRI Artistic Director Rachael Maza

ILBIJERRI Producers Jermaine Beezley, Lauren Bok & Lisa Parris

ILBIJERRI Production Manager Ilana Russell

ILBIJERRI Stage Manager Brock Brocklesby

Narrator Uncle Jack Charles



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.


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. 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, Woiworung speakers, 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 in honour of friendship and the time of plenty.

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, 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 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 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 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 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.