Origins of the Moomba Festival


Indigenous culture influences Melbourne’s most famous Festival! Moomba is a three-day event has its origins in 1951, on a day chosen to celebrate 50 years of Federation. Along with a parade there was a play staged called “An Aboriginal Moomba: Out of the Dark.” That production was meaningful not only because there were still heavy restrictions on Indigenous Australians in the 1950s but also because this play would lead to the cheeky name of the first official Moomba festival in 1955.

Indigenous unionist Bill Onus, also President of the human rights group, the Australian Aborigines League, suggested the name Moomba. The meaning of this word is said not to have been properly known to the Anglo Australian organisers, who understood “moomba” to mean “let’s get together and have fun.” Instead there are several meanings of this word and that English phrase is not one of them. Moomba roughly translates to “Up Your Bum” in some Victorian Indigenous languages.

Onus’ daughter in law would later say that the word was meant in its other context, meaning celebration. Alternative translations include “show”, “making a noise,” “thunder” or “dark.” For the record I think that the irreverent meaning perfectly suits Melbournian sense of humour.