Contact us




Music Projects

About Us


Music Outreach
Orchestrating Reconciliation
Ipswich Thistle Pipe Band Centennial
Purga Music History
To celebrate the Ten Year Anniversary of the opening of the Purga Music Museum (which opened Sept 6, 2003), we invite people who are associated with Purga to join us in telling the "Purga Music Story and Harold Blair." Please contact us if you would like to be involved in developing a performance or contributing historical information and memorabilia.
THE PURGA MUSIC HISTORY PROJECT (2003-2008) involved several different action cycles that are described in the presentations below. There were many overlapping spheres of practice throughout the journey with communities, as we explored the music stories of our neighbourhood. The project would not have been possible without assistance from Purga Friends Association, Inc. and Purga Elders and Descendants Aboriginal Corporation. Thank you to all the co-researchers who participated. It turned out to be a wonderful opportunity for reunion of old friends who used to live in the area.

Icon Presentation by Sandra Kirkwood at the
ArtsHealth Symposium, 7-9 October, 2009. Newcastle, Australia.

"Ethnomusicking: Valued music occupation or audacious antics in the Purga Music Museum."
Presentation by Sandra Kirkwood published in the Proceedings of Cultural Diversity in Music Education Conference, 11-12 January, 2010, held at Sydney Conservatorium, Australia.

"Frameworks of culturally engaged community music for rural Ipswich" (2009) by Sandra Kirkwood.
Music Memory groups - It all started in March, 2003 when we tried to learn more about the music history of Purga, Ipswich, Australia. The participatory action research was facilitated by Sandra Kirkwood as part of a music history assignment for the Bachelor of Music course. A group of people who used to live in the area gathered together for morning tea meetings with Sandra to discuss the music history of the neighbourhood. With the assistance of Indigenous officers and Elders, we rotated venues for monthly morning tea meetings between the Purga Community Cultural Centre and the Purga Elders and Descendants Aboriginal Corporation next door.

The Ipswich City Council provided a community development grant that enabled us to set up a historical display in the Purga Community Cultural Centre. A member of the group video-recorded the stories that people told and the group assisted in writing a storybook for children called The Purga Music Story and Harold Blair. We greatly appreciate the assistance from Harold Blair's family who travelled from interstate to take part. The book has practical learning activities throughout to help children engage with their music heritage and culture.

The Purga Music Story and Harold Blair is an inter-generational community education package about Purga music history that was developed through consultation with local people who used to live in the neighbourhood, or on the Purga Aboriginal Mission that was once situated in the area from 1915 to 1948.

Reflection about music memory group and storytelling:
The Purga Music Story is a living story that grows over time. Musicians who play and sing at community dinners write themselves into Purga Music history. New residents who move into the Purga area also have the opportunity to include music stories about themselves and their relatives in the Purga Music Story. People bring in old photographs, newspaper clippings, and music memorabilia to share with others and it can be added to wall hanger displays and multi-media recordings to assist with the telling of the neighbourhood story.

The Purga Music Story enlarges with each telling because people ad lib as they tell the story and add jokes, music and songs. At a recent 'Aussie dinner' I think there was a wee bit of exageration or 'guilding the lilly', as some people call it; but that is the prerogative of the culture bearers who collaborate creatively to share their experiences and memories.

I especially like to see young people join in because they bring new ideas and new ways of seeing things. Where would we be without their expertise in technology and multi-media devices? A whole new chapter is beginning to be told about web and digital techology for music storytelling. There is certainly renewed hope for musical development, when people dust off their instruments and bring them out to play at community events such as 'Carols in the Country.'

It is very important that the story is told in the local area because elderly people can re-visit the area where they grew up and show us things that are of significance to our music history. Music seems to be associated with life in general when people talk about the music they remember. The lyrics of songs say something about what people thought, felt, and valued at the time. The choice of musical repertoire at school, church, at dances and social events provides insights into society.

People meet up with their old school friends and acquaintances at the Purga Community Cultural Centre, church, and old Purga School. Many memories are also renewed from visits to the places where people used to live and the Purga Aboriginal Cemetery. This reunion with old friends, past and present, can be part of a natural process of reminiscing about life stories and passing on music heritage and culture from one generation to the next. The process of encoding music heritage and culture is especially important in light of the Indigenous history of the area and the future industrial development that has been proposed by state government. The impact of noise from freight trains on the natural environment is of concern to musicians and local people.

Recording the intangible memories, and the music and songs that people remember is important to safeguarding the music heritage and culture of the area. It helps people to reflect on what the music history means to us today -- especially in light of the Stolen Generations Indigenous community that descended from Purga. Writing new songs and stories is also important so that people can share new insights. My observations are that creative collaboration on this project brought people together from around Australia, and promoted health and well-being at both the local individual, and societal level (Kirkwood, 2009).

THE PURGA MUSIC MUSEUM was founded by the Purga Friends Association, Inc. and Purga Elders and Descendants Aboriginal Corporation in 2003, as part of the Purga Dawn Ceremony. The  Music Museum is more than a collection of music memorabilia; it is a meeting place where people gather together, and a keeping place to showcase local music heritage and culture. The collection includes videos, publications, music scores, photgraphs, recordings and DVDs of local people discussing the music history of the neighbourhood. There are also books, videos, photographs, letters and articles about the life and musical career of renowned tenor, Harold Blair who grew up on the Purga Aboriginal Mission. Meta Maclean (local composer and author) is also remembered through display of her music compositions, books and historical records pertaining to her life and musical career. Meta Maclean grew up at Boonah, Munbilla and attended the Ipswich Girl's Grammar School. She was the composer of many iconic Australian songs such as the 1931 anthem to the Country Women's Association, "Forward, Ever Forward."
Musical instrument renewal has been organised at Purga by Sandra Kirkwood, such as the restoration of the reed organ in the Purga United Church. Les Rub wrote a story about his restoration of the Purga reed organ. It contains photographs of the different processes and procedures that he used. Reed organ restoration is a dying art because most organs are powered by electricity today. Many young people marvel at the way the organ works on foot pumping action. Les' story is available through the Purga Music Museum and he sometimes visits for social occasions and community events.

There are two historic pianos in the old Purga School that are in need of further restoration. One is said to have belonged to Miss Woolley who was the school teacher on the Purga Aboriginal Mission. The other one was bought for the Purga State School in 1945.

There is no end to the stories of triumph and tragedy that are shared at Purga. We take comfort in being able to relax and share stories or music performances in the Purga Music Museum and beautiful bushland areas such as the Purga Nature Reserve and Flinders-Goolman Conservation Estate with horse trails and jogging tracks that are maintained by Ipswich City Council. A project is underway to connect the Purga locality with trails from Goolman to Boonah that traverse the Scenic Rim area.

Read more about
Ipswich Outdoor Adventures and Physical Activity  brochures.

In the Christmas holidays, plans are underway to continue the Fish 'n' Sing Social Oceanography Project which combines our love of the outdoors and singing with fishing at the beach. Please contact us if your are interested in helping to organise that event. The aim is to learn more about the musical connections with fishing traditions through hands-on active participation. We welcome people from diverse cultural backgrounds who wish to share knowledge of musical cultural traditions associated with fishing. 

Read more about music and community participation in environmental management and safeguarding cultural heritage in the article about the Fish 'n' Sing Museum Outreach program,
"Doing, Being, Becoming more Active in community-based Museum Scenarios" by Sandra Kirkwood. 

Further information can be found on the 
Purga Music Creative Communities website and the Music Museum Outreach Project page of this website. 

Thanks to Ipswich City Council for providing a Community Development Grant of $2,000 to purchase equipment to help establish the Purga Music Museum in 2003. Project management, curatorship and research development has been provided on a voluntary basis by Sandra Kirkwood and community members from 2003 to the present. Purga Friends Association and Purga Elders and Descendants Aboriginal Corporation are to be congratulated for their support and participation in community music projects and cultural heritage management.

In 2006, a scoping study of contemporary music in rural Ipswich was undertaken by Sandra Kirkwood to map out what music was occuring in the area and who was involved with particular music events. This resulted in a book and database that outlined "Music Communities of the 21st Century in Rural Ipswich." Much of the information was obtained through focus groups with people who were interested in community music, music therapy, music education, and recording their own music.

A review of the the Purga Music Museum was also undertaken at this time through a focus group with interested people and representatives of Queensland Community Arts Network (QCAN), Access Arts, Purga Elders and Descendants Aboriginal Corporation, Purga Friends Association, Kinections and Ipswich Multi-cultural Projects. A Regional Arts Development grant from Arts Queensland and Ipswich City Council made it possible to engage professional advisers and mentors, Prof. Huib Schippers (Queensland Conservatorium Research Centre), and music historian Dr John Whiteoak.

The focus groups resulted in brainstorming a "Music Action Plan for Rural Ipswich." and a report to local government entitled "Towards a strategy for music in rural Ipswich 2006-2007."

Both of these documents and the project reports appear in the Appendix to the thesis:
Sandra Kirkwood (2009)
Frameworks for culturally engaged community music practice in rural Ipswich, Australia. Queensland Conservatorium: Griffith University.

Arts Queensland    

Ipswich City Council

Article written by Sandra Kirkwood 28 March, 2009; updated 16 November, 2016.

 © Sandra Kirkwood, 2008
HomeContact usServicesTopicsPhotosMusic ProjectsAbout UsRegistrationResearch
Enabling Creative Solutions. Networking.