Chillin' out in the Chai Tent
Chillin' out in the Chai Tent Brett Wortman

Folk fest in crisis over sponsor

WOODFORD Folk Festival organisers are in crisis talks as they address criticism of a $225,000 sponsorship of The Dreaming festival by mining giant Santos.

The organisation is locked in talks with its members, committee and other parties which director Bill Hauritz admitted yesterday were likely to continue for several days before a resolution was reached.

It is under fire from outside and in over a deal struck 18 months ago that secured the funding and the survival of the showcase of Aboriginal culture that has still to achieve financial viability.

The sponsorship has angered members of the Lock the Gate movement, which is battling to maintain the rights of landowners and to protect the integrity of water sources in the face of the coal seam gas boom.

Santos is heavily involved in coal seam gas exploration.

The Dreaming was scheduled to be held in June, but with the site still recovering from the ravages of January's flooding, was included this year in a dedicated area as part of the folk festival, which runs from December 27 until January 2.

Woodfordia has hosted six mid-year Dreaming Festivals which, while popular, would not survive without corporate, government and Woodford Folk Festival support.

Mr Hauritz said the issues were complex and multi-layered.

He said the Santos sponsorship was over three years, covered only The Dreaming Festival and came with no strings.

"In the perfect world, we would rather not have any sponsors," Mr Hauritz said.

"We have been attacked in the past because we have dealt with corporations that we are uncomfortable with - the truth is we could not do The Dreaming without significant assistance."

Noel Blair, the spokesman for the Jinibara Nation, the traditional custodians of the Woodfordia site, said it was his view that major corporations should be contributing to Aboriginal communities.

"In the case of The Dreaming, support from mining companies has allowed us to keep going," he said.

"Mining companies including Santos have played a major positive role in many indigenous communities.

"I can't speak for all Aboriginal people but I know we are struggling to maintain our cultures and The Dreaming is a big thing for us."



The mining company will sponsor The Dreaming Festival:

  • $225,000 over three years
  • In return, the company asked to be acknowledged - no advertising

The festival organiser made it clear to Santos that the sponsorship:

  • Would not be permitted to compromise the festival's stand on the environment
  • Would not block programmed speakers critical of mining companies