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Festival program

Core activities

Volunteer displays painting for auction at the Eel Festival Art Auction 2022

Art Auction and dinner

A fun and interesting part of the festival program is the art auction and dinner. 

The auction supports the work of talented regional artists and includes dinner. 

Many of the exhibiting artists are present in the night and you can meet them and discuss their works before bidding and securing your original piece inspired by country. 

Indigenous caterers are engaged for the dinner which is included in the Art Auction ticket price. 

Then take your art home with you to enjoy forever, a unique way to appreciate and remember the joy of community and creativity.
Proceeds from the purchase of artworks benefit both artists and the ongoing future of the festival. 

Deakin University’s Professor John Sherwood presenting at the Eel Festival Forum 2022

Festival Forum

An integral part of each year’s program is the Festival Forum which offers engaging and insightful presentations from guest speakers highlighting the particular festival theme.

Other forums have focused on grasslands, volcanoes, return to country, migration of people, plants and animals, biodiversity of indigenous grasslands, climate, energy and the future.

Always informative and sometimes confronting, it is a highly anticipated part of the festival program.

Workshops and activities for all ages,

Workshops and other activities

The festival features a variety of workshops and activities for all ages, interests and capabilities. 

Food van operators offer dishes of many cultures and cuisines with BBQ eel a special inclusion.

Off-site food options include a café, takeaway food and drinks, a supermarket and hotel dinners.

Priority is given to local and craft- based market stalls.

A diverse range of engaging workshops are offered. Previous workshops have included eel skin tanning, bush foods and basket weaving.

There is no additional cost for workshops.


The Twilight Ceremony

A key part of the festival is the twilight ceremony which features Indigenous dancing and storytelling.

The Twilight Ceremony marks the transition into the evening events. It's a really special part of the festival, and everything else stops during this time.
Beginning as a simple ceremonial campfire gathering in 2005, it has developed into a unique celebration incorporating Indigenous dance, music and community theatre telling stories of Country and always based around the story of the eel migration.

First Nations dancers perform in the Twilight Ceremony beside Lake Bolac at the closing of the Eel Festival 2022
2005 Walkers on Hopkins River healing walk.jpg
The Healing Walk participants at local waterway

The Healing Walk

The initial concept of the festival involved walking on country to the lake and having a celebratory concert around a campfire.
The Healing Walk follows most of the major local waterways both upstream and downstream since the festival’s inception in 2005.

Since the first Healing Walk from the mouth of the Hopkins River to Lake Bolac, each year a small group of around 20 have ‘walked’ one of the waterways associated with the lake.

These walks have been made possible through the cooperation of landholders, farmers and community members along the routes.

The participation of members of local Indigenous communities is an integral part of the walks.

The Healing Walk is an opportunity to experience 'walking on Country'. The 2022 Healing Walk, on 13th May, was a one day walk of 9-10 kilometres finishing with an afternoon tea kindly supported by a grant from Treasure Hunters Hall.

Neil Murray, Lake Bolac local and founder of the festival, performing in 2022

Live music

The festival’s Live Music Program provides a wide array of eclectic acts and styles while retaining its grass-roots origins.
Its hallmark is a line-up of musicians and performers who embrace festival values, understand its cultural and environmental significance, and are committed to reconciliation.


Some performers are recognised and celebrated internationally and many nationally. Others are new and emerging artists, and all perform original material.

Neil Murray

Neil Murray is one of Australia’s original and respected singer/songwriters and has enjoyed a solo career since 1989. 

He first emerged in the early 1980s as a founding member of the ground‐breaking Warumpi Band that helped make contemporary Indigenous music heard in mainstream Australia.

Neil is also a Lake Bolac local and, as the founder of the festival, is always honoured and excited to perform in front of a home crowd.

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