Indigenous dance

Preserving Indigenous culture through a Service Spirit

Published on : 4/13/20
  • Garma festival was conceived by the Yothu Yindi Foundation in 1999 and forms part of the Foundation’s vision to ensure the traditional Yolngu people and other Indigenous Australians have the same level of wellbeing and life opportunities as non-Indigenous Australians.

    Garma is Australia’s leading Indigenous cultural festival in North-East Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, and is considered one of the top ten cultural festivals in the world.

    The Yothu Yindi Foundation itself was founded in 1990 to encourage cultural development with five regional clans in Arnhem Land; the Gumatj, Rirratjingu, Djapu, Galpu and Wangurri. The leadership and innovative programs developed by the Foundation are considered significantly positive forces which help maintain and preserve Indigenous culture in Arnhem Land and beyond.

    Garma is all about experiencing and appreciating traditional values, bridging the gap and finding a way forward together. The festival is an opportunity to celebrate Traditional culture, history, storytelling, knowledge and understanding. Since 2004, Sodexo has been involved with the Festival, providing catering and facilities management services, as part of its partnership with the Yothu Yindi Foundation.

    It is a privilege to be welcomed onto sacred Yolngu grounds and Sodexo’s annual invitation to attend and serve at Garma is reflective of its tangible commitment to reconciliation. Sodexo’s involvement with Garma over the years has enabled the company to develop greater understanding and cultural awareness across the business through service to First Nations peoples, fostering a strong sense of inclusion and belonging for all.


    Sodexo employees in GarmaOver time, Sodexo has become a vital component of the festival’s success. Its involvement includes setting up the bush kitchen facilities at the remote Gulkula ceremonial grounds, preparing and serving hot, healthy and nutritious meals to up to 3,000 participants three times a day over four days, as well as maintaining the guest facilities, the festival’s Knowledge Centre and the ablution blocks for the duration of Garma.

    Over the years, Sodexo’s partnership with Garma has helped its own employees develop an understanding of the greater purpose of the festival and reflect on the enduring leadership role that the Yolngu people have played in paving the way to a reconciled Australia. Sodexo understands that cultivating a sense of reverence and understanding of Indigenous culture among its own employees is an important step in the company’s work towards reconciliation.


    Each year poses a huge logistical and operational challenge for Sodexo who deliver catering, site operations, guest facilities management and event support services at the festival. Year on year, Sodexo has continued to improve operationally in its ability to cater for and serve the Yolngu communities and Garma participants.

    In 2019, Sodexo celebrated 17 years of partnership with Yothu Yindi and Garma, and its 14th year as the festival’s major sponsor. A team of almost 70 Sodexo volunteers from sites across Australia prepared and served over 30,000 meals for more than 2,000 participants across four days. Sodexo also catered for 450 VIP guests including political, business and community leaders, demonstrating its passion for food, service spirit and teamwork.

    Sodexo volunteers have described Garma as a ‘pinnacle opportunity’ to connect with the Yolngu people and communities, to experience and appreciate the traditional values, and bridge the gap in cultural differences. Many employees view being selected as a chef or hospitality volunteer at Garma as a career highlight.


    Sodexo, global leader in quality of life services, places high value on its partnership with Yothu Yindi and its continued involvement in the Garma festival. The company works hard each year to ensure its service is supporting positive community impact.

    Sodexo’s support of Garma is a key action of its Elevate Reconciliation Action Plan where the company has committed to championing Indigenous business and inclusive practice.

    Through close consultation with Yothu Yindi and the enthusiasm of its employees to volunteer at the festival, Sodexo will continue its involvement in Garma long into the future.

    “The Garma Festival is a unique cultural experience reflective of the deep history held by the Yolngu people. Sodexo’s commitment to the success of the festival is an investment in the preservation of Australia’s Indigenous past.”
    - Sean Armistead, General Manager, Indigenous & Community Engagement

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