An indigenous festival in Byron Bay with a strong music line-up has struggled to attract an audience, but the NSW government is confident people will flock to a new Aboriginal arts festival in Sydney with mainly free events.
Launched on Thursday by Governor Marie Bashir, Corroboree Sydney has free and ticketed events showcasing indigenous visual and performing arts, live music, film and literature.
Among the highlights of the 11-day festival, which opens on November 14, will be a parade through the city of 1000 schoolchildren and commissioned artwork at Walsh Bay inspired by night fishing in traditional canoes.
It will also feature the Corroboree Club, a pop-up live performance venue for comedy, musical and drag shows; films and an indigenous art market at Pier 2/3 in Walsh Bay and which will be known as ''Corroboree Central''.
Creative director Hetti Perkins said members of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community working in key cultural organisations in Sydney had created the festival to exhibit the rich heritage of Sydney and NSW.
Yet the Boomerang Festival, curated by Rhoda Roberts and touted as Australia's most ambitious indigenous arts event, has struggled to sell tickets, despite a line-up led by Gurrumul Yunupingu and Archie Roach.
Poor ticket sales for the festival, to be held next month, led promoter Peter Noble to say ''cultural apartheid'' existed in Australia.
''How many people actually know an Australian indigenous person or have ever met one properly? Here's your big chance … maybe you would be enriched as a person,'' he said.
The government has pledged financial support for Corroboree Sydney for three years, following a recommendation by the Visitor Economy Taskforce to establish a major indigenous cultural festival to raise the profile of Aboriginal heritage and contemporary culture. Destination NSW, the government's tourism and main events arm, estimates the festival will contribute $21 million over three years and attract 55,000 visitors to Sydney.