It’s been a while coming…things have been pretty hectic in Desert Feet land! Here’s the wrap …
The town of Newman, Western Australia is the administrative centre of Australia’s largest Local Council – Shire of East Pilbara, and home to lots of people of Nyiyapali, Martu and other language groups of the Pilbara region. This year, the Community Wellbeing Services group of the Shire of East Pilbara wanted to celebrate NAIDOC Week by showcasing the strong, vibrant and beautiful culture and language of the traditional owners of that country – using Music!
Manager of Community Wellbeing, Pip Parsonson brought us up to Newman to run a week of workshops in the local primary schools during the day and the Youth Centre in the afternoons. Then we headed east out to Parnngurr Community to work with local Martu rockstars the Wild Dingo Band to produce new music, and rehearse a whole new set of songs in Mandilyjarra language, to bring back to Newman for a final NAIDOC Week celebration concert. What a trip!
We also used the opportunity to spend time in the remote Pilbara, and organised with Ngurra Kujungka to provide the Desert Feet truck stage for their annual Sports Carnival round in Parnngurr. Our truck is an amazing facility, we want to share it around as much as possible, so we look for opportunities like this to value-add to projects in a region, and make it cheaper for communities to have the full concert experience and all of the benefits that brings.
Aaaand if that’s not enough – we ran our School Holiday Program in Parnngurr – also with Ngurra Kujungka!
This blog is about the Newman part of the Tour. Parnngurr highlights to come!
NAIDOC in Newman
Newman is home to an amazing organisation, dedicated to preserving and strengthening Martu culture, Kanyirrninpa Jukurrpa (KJ). We worked closely with KJ’s Language Officer Garry Earl-Spurr, he has a nyaparu name (someone with that name has passed away so out of cultural respect, it is no longer spoken) so he goes by ‘Duke’. We sought permission from Martu people, represented by our great friend Clifton Girgiba, to work with the kids and youth to learn Martu Wangka together.
Over the week we had approximately 70 kids in attendance at Newman Primary School and about 45 kids at South Newman Primary. The kids were so excited and positive to learn about music as well as being well behaved and attentive. They were also really quick learners, which kept us on our feet!
- To get the kids excited about music
- To introduce the kids to different types of music, including Indigenous, and teach them songs with a Martu Wangka language element them.
- To produce a music video that all the kids can be a part of, and to be presented at the NAIDOC concert
- To teach basic music elements to help them understand how music works, something that can be built on in future visits.
- The selected year groups performed two songs at school assembly – ‘In The Desert’ which featured Martuwangka words and actions, and ‘Ruka Ruka’ a Wild Dingo Band track that was partly translated to English with a few Martuwangka words, performed alongside Clifton Girgiba, who plays in the band.
- With their guardians’ permission, the kids featured in a music video for ‘In The Desert’. This was shown at the final NAIDOC concert
- The kids were introduced to melodic and rhythmic elements of music in a fun and engaging way
- We introduced and dissected music that they may not have heard before and talked about all different kinds of instruments
East Pilbara Youth Centre – After School Program
We had at least 20 youths through every afternoon which started as predominately boys but saw growing numbers of girls towards the end of the week. Most importantly, the same kids were there all week. Sometimes the kids can be a bit standoffish and hesitant at first around new people and strange gear, but after a while its the shy ones who tend to flourish. Angus taught an 8 year old how to play a simple beat on drums and within 30mins he was shredding!
- To engage youth in positive activities after school at the Youth Centre by providing music workshops
- To get the kids playing instruments, even if its just a quick play, to have a go and be inspired
- To work with particularly talented or keen kids and youth to further extend their music skills
- To get them thinking about songwriting, and how they can tell their own stories their own way through music.
- With the help of KJ’s Language Officer, Duke, we helped a group of young men write a song called ‘Jilanya’, which was about life in Newman. We provided the songwriting tools and they filled in the blanks.
- We successfully got the boys to perform a song at the Blue Light Disco – Pip could hardly believe his eyes and ears!
- We had steady and increasing numbers of both boys and girls throughout the week
- Workshops about how to care for the gear so it doesn’t break – always important.
- Got them on instruments, which can be a bit full on, but its invaluable!
NAIDOC Week is one of my favourite times of the year, when the culture, language and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are celebrated around the country. Australia has a terrible history of the treatment of First Nations people here, at times there was systematic attempts to wipe out language and culture, yet it survived and the people are strong and proud of it!
We helped out at the official opening of NAIDOC Week, where Clifton performed acoustic songs in Mandilyjarra language to a crowd of local elders and other dignatories. To see the elders’ faces light up as he sung about homelands was very moving.
At least 500 people attended the final concert of the NAIDOC period, organised by the Shire of East Pilbara team and sponsored by BHP Billiton. Within this number there was a solid showing of families, both Indigenous and not. A lot of people gathered from neighbouring communities to be a part of the festivities. The event had a bit of buzz around it and was a really fun and successful community event that highlighted contemporary Martu and Nyiyaparli culture in a meaningful and relevant way.
The Central Desert Band travelled all the way from Wiluna to perform their bluesy rock reggae tunes – they play a great blend of styles and are really tight! Many thanks to the Communities team at FMG for offering the use of their accommodation in Newman for the band to use. They ended up staying with family instead, but to know we had accommodation secured was a really important part of the project.
After rehearsing for a week in Parnngurr it was great to see the Wild Dingo Band get up and smash a show like absolute rockstars, and it was obvious that they felt like they did too! As soon as they took to the stage, the crowd energy picked up – it was brilliant. The boys just have the magic!
Thanks so much to Pip and the team at the Shire of East Pilbara for putting this project together. We’ve got many ideas to make next time even better!