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New Year’s Eve fireworks light up First Nations stories

City of Sydney 4 mins read


The Sydney New Year’s Eve fireworks will kick off with a mammoth celebration of First Nations culture that includes a very special smoking ceremony and the spectacular Calling Country 9pm fireworks.

Pylon projections, as well as live music and dance, will dazzle crowds ahead of the 9pm centrepiece, with celebrations also including a message stick presentation ceremony.

This year’s 9pm Calling Country show has been created by Indigenous social enterprise, We Are Warriors (WAW), and includes a who’s who of Indigenous artists and musicians.

We Are Warriors empowers Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth, shines a spotlight on Indigenous excellence, and celebrates and amplifies First Nations voices and stories, according to WAW founder and creative director, Nooky.

At the end of the year we’ve had, we want to let our people know they’re loved, they’re seen, and they’re heard. That they are Warriors. It’s time to reflect on and awaken the stories of this country that have been buried by the history we didn’t write,” Nooky said.

Lord Mayor of Sydney, Clover Moore AO embraced the sentiment.

“This year’s talented artists have created music, visual art and performances that both champion Indigenous culture and storytelling, and highlight the challenges and resilience of both young and old First Nations peoples,” the Lord Mayor said.


Smoking ceremony and Welcome to Country

Tribal Warrior will hold a traditional smoking ceremony on the harbour to kick off Sydney’s New Year’s Eve celebrations.

For the first time, three vessels will take part in the ceremony, with Tribal Warrior joined by Wirawi and the Mari Nawi as it makes its way from Barangaroo to Campbell Cove.

The sacred ceremony to cleanse the harbour of negative spirits in preparation for the new year will kick off at 7:30pm.

It is a ritual of purity and unification using eucalyptus leaves that pays respect to the Traditional Custodians of the land, past and present, and welcomes visitors onto Gadigal land.


Sydney Harbour Bridge Calling Country pylon projections

Pylon projections created by We Are Warriors, in collaboration with creative innovation studio R/GA and illustrator Janelle Burger, will showcase how stories handed down from generation to generation keep Indigenous culture and identity alive.

The concept focuses on the idea of ‘Buried Country’, which reinforces the message that you are always on country even in the urban landscapes of big cities. It uses the story of Pemulwuy to reveal the warrior spirit within all First Nations people.

Pemulwuy was a Bidjigal man and one of the most famous resistance fighters of the colonial era. The Calling Country projections will celebrate his spirit of resistance and resilience.

“We’re going to share stories of great warriors like Pemulwuy and Warriors of the past, present, and today. We are going all out projecting images onto the harbour bridge putting blak excellence on full display for the world to see. From the visuals to the music we pursued to reflect what a calling to country is. We are calling to our old people for strength in this moment and to also celebrate their achievements and the knowledge they have passed down. I hope to create a memorable event for everyone to take part in. This platform allows us to share our truth, our stories, our voice with the world,” Nooky said.

Noongar artist Janelle Burger has created bespoke illustrations of iconic First Nations figures including Cathy Freeman, Barkaa, Anita Heiss, Adam Goodes and  Patty Mills, which will be integrated with the We Are Warriors creative.

“When creating these images for the Sydney New Year’s Eve pylons, I tried to capture the essence and spirit of the First Nations peoples. To integrate the timeless connection to the land into the very fabric of the images. This is a tribute to warriors whose footsteps echoed through time, leaving an indelible mark on Australia’s history,” Ms Burger said.

Yuin artist, rapper and Triple J radio host Nooky is also a vital voice in the Australian music landscape. He’s known for his no-holds-barred, hyperactive brand of rap and has worked with brands from G-Shock to Geedup, while also making beats and producing.

Janelle Burger is a Paris-based illustrator who draws on elements of pop culture, fashion and video games in creating her stunning designs. Her images have appeared in publications like InStyle magazine, Frankie and Nala.


Calling Country 9pm fireworks display

As these vivid colours and images light up the pylons, spectators around the harbour and at home will be captivated by the Calling Country fireworks display.

Pyrotechnics including aerial shells, fan effects, comets and mines will combine to burst into the night sky highlighting the connection to land, sky and sea for the 9pm event.


Calling Country 9pm soundtrack

The stunning pyrotechnics display will be set to an original soundtrack produced by Nooky and Aria Award winner and Grammy nominee Vincent Goodyear.

Better known as 18YOMAN, the Bunuba producer, composer, songwriter, instrumentalist and artist specialises in bespoke instrumentals and intricate sound beds.

The track brings an anthemic hip hop sound to the harbour with elements of traditional First Nations audio weaved throughout. 


Calling Country live performance

Nooky will also be taking his hip hop artistry to the ABC live stage, where he will be joined by Noongar rapper Dallas Woods and Gumbaynggirr singer Angus Field, fellow members of hip hop supergroup 3%.

Woorabinda artist Jada Weazel and some other special guests will join the trio for a special performance of the track Our People.

The artists will be flanked by the Muggera dancers, who will also perform.


Message stick presentation

As part of this live performance, a video broadcast onto the pylons will feature an Elder from the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council.

The Elder will present the Lord Mayor with a message stick  created especially for Sydney New Year’s Eve.

Celebrations and performances will continue into the night, finishing in an unforgettable midnight fireworks show.

Visit to find out more about what is planned for the night.

Download images and video here.

For media enquiries or images, contact Nicky Breen

Phone 0436 599 861 or email

For interviews with Lord Mayor, contact Zoe Delamare

Phone 0477 263 615 or email

For more stories from your local area, visit

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