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Published on May 25, 2014
A DVD looking at the ways traditional and contemporary music and dance maintain mental health and wellbeing. In Djambarrpuynu Language with English Subtitles.

Practitioners are increasingly utilising information communication technologies (ICT) with very young children in early childhood settings. A debate is raging in the media as to the pros and cons of 'virtual-electronic' versus 'material world' active learning opportunities. However, when this scenario is played out with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australian children, it is even more contentious because the technological changes have resulted in shifting responsibility for teaching and learning of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander songs, dances and cultural heritage to a new physical and social environment which may distance musical development from community life. The rate of social change has been enormous, so in many cases there has not been adequate consultation and negotiation as to how early childhood professionals are to effectively implement the National Early Years Learning Framework with respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander music culture. 

Read more:
Kirkwood, S & Miller A. (2014) The impact of new technologies on musical learning of Indigenous Australian Children, 
Australian Journal of Early Childhood online 39(1), 94-101. The purpose of this paper is to problematise the increasing distance of musical development from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, and to propose new methods for exploring how digital technologies may be utilised for promoting children's musical development in various contexts. The findings are applied to early childhood practitioner recommendations for future community-led research and education.
Musicking the Digital Photographic Archive (Feb, 2014)
As people near the end of their lives, they are starting to hand on historical collections of photos and newspaper clippings to the next generation. The stories they told and the faces in the pictures recall life in times and places removed from our general understanding. How do we remember and make sense of what is handed down to us?

Musicking the photographic archive is one way of keeping those memories alive, and it can also being people together to reinterpret the stories and to decide how to tell them now-a-days. Singing the stories can be a rich emotional experience for communities, sometimes quite sad as we look back and remember those who are no longer with us. We try to recall people's wishes and the important sayings that family want to pass on to future generations -- thinking about people-musicking-land connections.

We have an opportunity to inspire and to fan the flames, even extending remnants of traditional languages, song and dance through our performances -- but the timing and circumstances need to be right for the people and communities involved. There are local sensitivities and place-based Indigenous-led research is needed about how, who, what, when and where the new and old songs may be sung? The cultural practices need to be negotiated with Elders and respected culture bearers, and Indigenous knowledges safeguarded on their terms. The values of 'Caring for Country' and keeping culture strong guide inter-generational transmission -- as we invite culture bearers and Elders to take the lead in formulating Community Music Action Plans. 

There are national initiatives to safeguard Indigenous Australian languages and culture through musicking, and linkage of musicking to health and well-being, and land claims in research literature and multi-media sources: 
World News Radio, 16 Nov. 2013, Hannah Sinclair, 
Music to preserve Tiwi language and culture.
NITV News, 20 Feb, 2014. Danny Teece-Johnson,
Researchers use music to preserve Aboriginal language
AIATSIS, 5 Feb, 2014. National Indigenous Languages Survey 2: 
Indigenous languages link to health and well-being
Koch, Grace & Crowe, Alexandra (2013) Song, Land, and Ceremony Interpreting the Place of Songs as Evidence for Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Land Claims. Collaborative Anthropologies. 6. 373-398.
John Lambert's documentary film in development, 'Bighouse Blues' is an inspiring musical journey from beyond the prison walls. Indigenous Australians are less than 3% of the population but make up over 25% of the prison population.

"Many believe that music may well have a role to play in changing these statistics. Through music workshops, performances and even recording sessions many Indigenous inmates are able to tell their story, make sense of their past and heal their spirit."

New consultation happening online, Indigenous Digital Excellence Agenda (IDEA), asking the question, "How can we co-create a nation where young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders can thrive in the digital world? This is an initiative of the partnership between National Centre of Indigneous Excellence (NCIE) and the Testra Foundation #IndigenousDX. 
Christmas Lament for the Children (to well known tune "St. Louis," by Lewis Henry Redner, 1868)
Christmas can be a very sad time for those who have lost or have had to give up children. The words of this song were written to try to recognise and appreciate the loss and grief experienced by members of the Australian Stolen Generations, their families and communities. 

O little town of Dirranbandi, dark mother of the night,
Waits in hope and silently prays her children will be all right.
She can not hear them singing or hold them in her arms,
"They've taken all my children away, they ne'er came home from play."

Hark, Hark! Do you hear hearts breaking, their voices mighty throng?
So join with us and all proclaim, the wisdom of this song.
The little children's voices announce to all who can hear,
"We never will repeat again this dreadful legacy."

We cry for all the children who never came back home,
She works all day without reprive, then falls upon her knees.
When you say a prayer at Christmas, spare a precious thought,
For the little ones away from their mums, sad mothers' Silent Night.

Since most Christmas Carols were composed in Europe in the 19th Century, it seems fitting to make up new songs and words that relate to the Australian lifestyle and traditions. Please send us some suggestions for possible posting on this website - especially songs that are tributes to members of the Stolen Generations.

Silent Night (extra verse)
Silent night, holy night,
Tell the truth, speak what's right.
Healing comes on bended knee,
Grace poured out to you and me.
Love and justice we need,
Love and justice we plead.

December, 2012
Musical Tribute to Kumanjay Little (May 2012), renowned Aboriginal singer/musician.
The song was written by Seraphia Haines-Presley, Ti Tree Upper Primary and Middle Years classes and Music Outback: Seini 'SistaNative' Taumoepeau and Mal Webb. Recording available on the Mal Webb Site.

Smith, Graeme (2012) Jimmy Little: Voicing Reconciliation.
Arena Magazine. 118(June), p. 52-54.

Eastwood, Ken (2012). Jimmy Little: Mentor and Musician. 
Australian Geographic, (April 3).
There are now sporadic culturally engaged music projects running with Indigenous peoples and tertiary institutions in several states/territories of Australia. 2012 has seen a blossoming of hands-on projects and partnerships in education. There seems to have been a move toward more engaged scholarship for students and service learning opportunities within communities. Further development is anticipated in the future.

Oxfam Prison Songs allow prisoners to express themselves through music. See film screening details, November 2016.
Music Health Australia was supported by Gunawirra Services to develop music modules for use by childcare staff working with young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and other Australian children in 43 preschools in New South Wales:
Listening           Voices          Working together       Dancing        Playing musical instruments

The aim is to enable the children to be active in music making and to contribute to creating music stories which are relevant to their lives, families and the place where they live, work and play. In tribal cultures, all members of communities participate in song, dance and music-making – not just those who are especially gifted with musical talents. This is also the case with the music modules which are intended to be used in a group situation with Elders, teachers and respected culture bearers who can encourage the use of Traditional languages, local stories, song and dance – where appropriate to do so. We are guided by the wishes of Indigenous corporations and families in each area.

A bridge for tertiary student cultural understanding occurred at Lightning Ridge Mobfest, New South Wales - see You Tube video of the Mobfest workshops and final concert, November 2012. 
A group of young Indigenous singers celebrated NAIDOC week by taking part in an intensive training program for classical music at the Wilin Centre for Indigenous Arts and Cultural Development at the University of Melbourne. Report from SBS World News Australia is on You Tube, Thursday 5 July 2012.

Some of the world's oldest musical compositions dating as far back as 25,000 years will feature in a free all-day event celebrating Australia's Indigenous musical culture at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music on Saturday 30 June.
The inaugural 'Our Music: Performing Place, Listening to Sydney' event featured contemporary and historic performances and storytelling by Indigenous musicians and Elders as well as students from the Sydney Conservatorium in collaboration with Redfern's Eora College and students from outback Menindee in far western NSW.
Co-hosted with the Australian National University, this was the first time that a whole day has been devoted to Indigenous music in the 96-year history of the Conservatorium.

Laidley State High School Thumbnail "It's the End of the Gap as we Know it"

Students and staff of Laidley High School are on the ball with their 2012 YouTube video "It's the end of the gap as we know it!"
Please contact Music Health Australia if you would like training/support for volunteers in running workshops. Some creative ideas are shown in this powerpoint that can be tailored to particular communities, people and places. Why butterflies? Because they have the most beautiful colours of any creature, and can undergo metamorphosis to adapt to their surroundings. They may not live very long, but are resilient and can move in remarkable ways when they 'find their wings,' in swarms and in and out of tight corners. The spirit of the butterfly is freedom. Birdsong and butterflies are about aesthetic appreciation of beauty and building resilience.

As a result of this project, every time I see a butterfly, I am reminded to stop, think and remember members of the Australian Stolen Generations and the family ties, and the communities that may still be trying to reunite family members and mourning the loss of Traditional Indigenous heritage, culture, song, dance, languages, land, and livelihoods.
Warren H. Williams has written inspiring songs which celebrate family life, such as "Family," from the Family Album, Looking Out (2009) Heartland/ABC Music, and the beautiful "Desert Child" lullaby:
             "Family," performed by Warren H. Williams -- You Tube video
             Warren H. Williams, "Desert Child," You Tube video
Performed by Warren H. Williams, John Williamson and Pixie Jenkins.

Searching for Family Connections
Music video "
Ode to My Family" by the Cranberries Thumbnail
Well, since we symbolically released the butterflies over the end of year holiday period, we went to visit the Pumicestone Passage and saw a guy kite-surfing at BRIBIE ISLAND. Imagined the view from the air must be fantastic as he became airborne over the waves. Perhaps this You Tube video of a flight from Beachmere to Bribie Passage, traces something of the imaginery journey of the butterflies out into Moreton Bay, and the sense of freedom which some experience.
             (click on photos for You Tube)
Check out the bull shark, mullet, sting rays and turtles that may be visible in the video!
Beautiful scenery from onboard Robinson R44 helicopter
             News Report on Quandamooka peoples, North Stradbroke Island Native Title Declaration.
Musical celebration with NUNUKUL YUGGERA dancers at Mirrabooka Riverlife, Brisbane 

Please join us for Music Museum Outreach in 2012 with a focus on listening, exploring and discovering our musical livelihoods.

Finding your wings - Butterflies as Musical Tributes 
Latest Powerpoint presentation of Butterflies
Between now and New Years' Eve, when this project finishes, the butterflies from the Finding Your Wings workshops will be realeased through Powerpoint presentation and the photopage of this website. The butterflies represent all the members of the Australian Stolen Generations, their families and communities. Many of their stories have not yet been told, or songs written as musical tributes to their life, livelihoods and the lands from whence they came. Even so, this project is seen as a small step on my journey of reconciliation, and I hope that the benefits of love and blessings from reunions with family and friends will be ongoing.

Due to the rainy weather, the Finding Your Wings workshops have been cancelled for December 8. Group workshops will be available until 23 December, if there is sufficient interest and facilitators who are able to assist.
             "Butterfly" by Danyel Gerard (click on link for You Tube video) 
Finding Your Wings is a workshop activity run by Music Health Australia. People of any age are invited to select magazine pictures and photographs that are meaningful to them, and then to cut the images into butterfly shapes using a template. The butterfly pieces are then assembled and decorated as shown in the examples below. Through the workshops, we may discover that every butterfly tells a story, and every butterfly is associated with a special song/dance that is chosen or created by participants.

Visit our photo webpage for larger images. No animals were harmed in the making of these butterflies. We used recycled materials and photographs.

contact us for workshop registration details.

Online resources about butterflies include the
Children's Butterfly Site which has some educational worksheets and illustrated explanations of the life cycle of butterflies. Websites devoted to cataloguing butterfly images are: Australian butterflies photographed; Butterflies of Australia (by Don Herbison-Evans and Shirley Crossley); and Australian butterflies (by Martin Purvis). The Australian Government Action Plan for Australian Butterflies  by D. Sands and T. New (2002), outlines conservation strategies for threatened species and ecological communities.

Butterfly tourist attractions include: The
Australian Butterfly Sanctuary at Kuranda, North Queensland; and the Butterfly House at Coffs Harbour, New South Wales.
Standing back and viewing a long time perspective seems to be a better way to understand the history of "Outback Australia." A time-lapse video made by Daymon Steptoe, from 104,000 images over a year, provides just a glimpse of the transitions that can occur in Australian landscapes. If this video footage represents scenes photographed over only one year, then the vastness of the time before European colonisation is even more astounding. 

Appreciation of the long-term time perspective can evoke respect for the long-standing cultural traditions and resilience of Indigenous peoples who withstood the harsh environmental conditions and sustained their livelihoods in the Australian Outback.

Outback Australia video
The beauty of musicking as a creative modality is that we can manipulate timing through the pace, rhythm, duration of the sounds, and chronicity of song cycles as we develop soundscapes that are meaningful to our lifestyles -- and remembering those who have gone before, our present companions, and future generations. Peoples' memories of the remnants of traditional Indigeneous songlines, and even new works influenced by natural environments, may increase our understanding about living in this country and relating to one another. We rely on Elders and respected cultural leaders to advise on ways of safeguarding and sharing Indigenous Australian knowledges that are so important to our sustainability and awareness. Language expression/comprehension is also inherent in song composition, and grounded in environmental enrichment experiences.

An article has been submitted for publication on my experience of the
Drumley Walk as Indigenous eco-tourism which promotes health.

Education and training in these methods of musicking is available through Music Health Australia. A workshop on Creating and Discovering Musical Livelihoods is planned for 2-3 June, 2012, as outreach from the Purga Music Museum. Read more about
Music Museum Outreach.
The first musical tribute is "Somewhere in the Night," in memory of members of Stolen Generations, their families and communities who have suffered domestic or institutional violence, or felt the pain and loss of being given up, removed, or separated from families (lyrics by Marilyn - sourced from internet by St Mary's High School student; the music by Sandra was originally composed for Sandy Gallop Dances with the Moon).
With the end of the year not far away, a rural and remote webpage has been developed to support communication with people across Australia through email, phone, video and field visits to some locations.

This outreach allows Music Health Australia to offer services for creating personalised musical tributes in the form of children's songs, lullabies, music for weddings, ceremonies and celebratory occasions, funerary music, or even compiliations of favourite fishing songs. Telling stories through music can be a way of processing and passing on memories from one generation to another.

Contact us to discuss your needs and whether we can assist your family or community to become involved with creating musical tributes to members of Stolen Generations, their families and communities. Selected songs and music may be shared on this website with consent of culture bearers; others may be presented in musicking workshops with participants in the project, which is due to close on 31 December, 2011.

Limited funding is available for those who are entitled to receive Medicare rebates for
Occupational Therapy services provided through Doctor's referral.

At Purga, our musical creations relate to the people, places and times that we remember. We are creating new soundworlds that can be enjoyed now and into the future. Our musicking gives us a voice that may influence the health of society. Photo: Mt Flinders (Kirkwood, 2011).
There have been further developments with creative tributes in memory of Ron Richards, renowned Aboriginal boxer. Miriam Cabello has created beautiful paintings of Indigenous Australian boxers for exhibition at the DUMBO Festival in New York in September, 2011. Visit MLC gallery in Sydney to view the works, or view online. Let's encourage others to join us in creative celebration of life stories of extraordinary Australians, and our own families and communities.
Over the last six months, I've been creating new musical compositions from personal reflections about people's life experiences. Starting with variations on Ron Richards' favourite jazz standard "Blue Orchids," I then moved on to writing lullabies, laments and funerary odes -- remembering not only the individuals, but the music that is familiar and remembered by families.

It is not surprising that the music we create now has cross-cultural influences from our lands of origin, and even the homelands of colonisers, but other works contain remembered fragments of traditional Indigenous songs. Each musical work is connected with the people, places and times in which they lived and is starting to reflect a journey toward reconciliation -- in memory of the Stolen Generations, their families and communities. The process of rebuilding musical livelihoods can be slow because it involves mixed emotions and may evoke disturbing memories.

Personal musical collections of original songs are starting to emerge from the chrysalis which are cherished privately and sometimes performed at public gatherings. Titles in our first collection include: The Axemen of Deebing Creek, Dirranbandi Christmas Carol, Home Coming - Man Overboard!, Junk Culture, Land of Nod, Be at Peace Mighty Warrier, Mother Mary, Prayer for my Family, The Purga Kids, Love Song for Survival, We were Innocent, What a Brother Does (selected items may be available by December, 2011).

Photograph taken at Bunya Mountains by Sandra Kirkwood (2010)
(April, 2011)

Each year we have enjoyed visits to the Bunya Mountains, a site of important cultural significance to Aboriginal people who remember the past gatherings of Traditional Owners from south-east Queensland and New South Wales. The Bunya Mountains National Park is a unique 11,700 hectares of breath taking natural scenery that includes walking tracks though rainforest, grasslands and eucalyptus forests. The grandeur of the environment set amongst tall Hoop and Bunya pine trees, and ever-present Aboriginal cultural heritage, have inspired composers to create new musical tributes that somehow take in the soundscape, spirituality, emotions and physical sensations experienced on the mountain.

For me, creating musical tributes involves learning to quiet my busy lifestyle, and take the time to listen and look beyond my usual routine and preoccupations. That's why I like visiting new places and observing how people interact with the sound world around them. I saw a man cup his hands and whistle down the valley, apparently just to hear the echoes come back to him on the top of the mountain. There is something spectacular about the sound of whipbirds and children's laughter in the quietness of the rainforest, and the eerie winds.

Queensland's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage map lists more than 200 landscapes, places and cultural heritage sites that may be of interest to artists and musicians. These sites, which are associated with particular language groups and Indigenous song/dance cultural traditions, may inspire new musical creations and artworks. Recommend that visitors and tourists consult with local culture bearers and Indigenous Elders for advice on cultural protocols, traditions and heritage. Local Indigenous people have taken on responsibility for safeguarding the natural environment: "Owners pledge to protect Bunyas": Article by Chris Calcino, 24/3/11, The Chronicle (Toowoomba newspaper).

The safeguarding of the sites and intangible cultural heritage is vital to sustaining our creativity now and into the future. We devise new stories about old places for a whole range of reasons; in this case, our musicking helps us to remember people who are near and dear to us. Perhaps this ethnomusicking (active musical creation) is part of being and becoming more vital, healthy, and in tune with our environment.

One of the first life stories to be celebrated through a musical tribute is the renowned Australian Aboriginal boxer, Ron Richards. Born in 1910 on the Deebing Creek Aboriginal Reserve in Ipswich, Queensland, Richards is of special significance to Stolen Generations communities, family, friends and the National Boxing Fraternity who gathered at Purga to celebrate the 100th anniversary of his birth on 8 May, 2010. 

When the Deebing Creek Aboriginal Reserve closed in 1914-15, residents moved to the Purga Aboriginal Mission which is now within the boundaries of Ipswich City. Ron Richards attended the
Purga Aboriginal School on the Mission with Harold Blair who became an internationally renowned tenor. Both Richards and Blair are part of the Thompson family which descended from Amy and Harry Thompson (Goolparjo) who were Yuggera people from around the Gatton, Helidon, Laidley districts. Musical and visual arts tributes are underway for Ron Richards - for exhibition later in 2011 (with consent from his family members).

We are thrilled that Ted Egan donated music books and CDs with the song "The Hungry Fighter," that he composed and recorded about Ron Richards. Ted Egan's music will be enjoyed by country music fans at Purga and further afield as we prepare for exhibitions of paintings of Ron Richards by the celebrated visual artist Miriam Cabello. Thanks to boxing historian, Ken Watson, Purga Elders, Ipswich City Council and Ron Richards' family for instigating a memorial and historical display at Purga for the celebration of Ron Richard's life. 

contact us if you would like to be involved, or know of others who are interested in creating musical tributes for certain members of Stolen Generations communities.

Thumbnail Ron Richards, Australian boxing videos.Thumbnail
That's Boxing" with Grantlee Kieza features Ron Richards fights against Archie Moore, Gus Lesnevitch, and Fred Henneberry (around 1938).

Daniel Habermann (2003) Deebing Creek and Purga Missions 1892-1948, Ipswich: Ipswich City Council.

Sandra Kirkwood (2005) The Purga Music Story and Harold Blair, Ipswich: Purga Music Museum.

Colin & Paul Tatz (1996) Black Diamonds: the Aboriginal and Islander Sports Hall of Fame. St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin.

Bill Thorpe (2004) Remembering the Forgotten: A History of the Deebing Creek Aboriginal Mission in Queensland 1887-1915, South Australia: Seaview Press.



Various stakeholders have shown interest in creating musical tributes for identified people who are of special significance to Stolen Generations communities, as a way of remembering them. In 2010, an Ethnomusicking project was developed to support and enable people to compose and perform music that is meaningful to them. This is part of a holistic approach to promoting healing and social and emotional well-being for people who have experienced grief, loss or trauma --  which is supported by a local occupational therapist/ethnomusicologist, and Elders from Aboriginal Corporations in Ipswich. 

This web page outlines the scope of the current action research project which explores the use of music in reconciliation, and presents some findings from literature review, workshops, musical analysis, community consultations and mapping the resources currently available.

One year has elapsed since the project on "Ethnomusicking: Musical Tributes to Members of the Stolen Generations, their Families and Communities" was first presented at the Ethnomusicology Futures Forum, a meeting of leading ethnomusicologists from around Australia, held on 5-6 December, 2009, at Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University. 

Key discoveries in 2010:
It has become clear that there is more than one path on the journey to reconciliation and healing. Participants generally indicate that music is enjoyable at social events and helpful for expressing emotion. Oral histories reveal that people's life stories are intertwined. We meet people along the way who seem to jog our memories and remind us of events that occurred long ago.

Several people are composing and performing their own musical tributes in diverse musical styles, from orchestral works, to country, rhythm 'n' blues, hip-hop, rap and other musical genres. Access to recording facilities are needed because participants are eager to make CDs and DVDs of self-composed songs that are significant to their heritage and culture. This kind of music-making has been called, 'ethnomusicking' because it is meaningful to people and connected to where they have come from and others who have been significant in their lives. It is a way of reconnecting people, nurturing the environment and sustaining livelihoods.

We are thankful for support from the volunteers and participants and appreciate those people who have suggested ideas that have been incorporated in to the project. We are also especially thankful for those with expertise in music and video recording technology, such as Zac Benjamin, who kindly took the time to make a promotional video-recording about the benefits of engagement with music.

Extensive Literature review and resources have been compiled about social-emotional well-being and the use of music in dealing with cumulative trauma. Some background information, references and links are posted below.

Field trips have been conducted to:
1. Bunya Mountains for exploration of the sonic environment and composition of musical tributes for reconciliation and healing (Reconciliation week - May, 2010). This activity is ongoing, as part of an annual Music Health Symposium.
2. Darwin for the Indigenous Music Awards and the iNTune Music Conference, organised by NT Music (August, 2010).
3. The Drumley's Walk and Corroboree which was organised by the Yugambeh Museum, Beenleigh. Some of us worked as volunteers to support this enriching experience and we learned songs in traditional Yugambeh languages.

Music analysis has been carried out to explore the key questions:
What music and songs have been recorded in memory of the Stolen Generations, families and communities? What genres and musical methods are used? Where does this occur? What is the social situation? Who is involved? What motivates people to participate in creating musical tributes - in past and present? How is the music connected with people, environment and sustainable livelihoods? The investigation informs creative processes and methods used for supporting people to create musical tributes.

Informal Consultation
occurred around what further kind of musical tributes people would like to create in future. This informs planning for activities and grant application submissions.

A Conference presentation was completed by Sandra Kirkwood at the Musicological Society of Australia Student Symposium to discuss the research proposal and findings to date with professional colleagues (Aug, 2010) -- see Powerpoint below.

A Reference group has been formed to monitor the ongoing development of the project. The research was partly carried out through enrollment in a PhD program with the School of Public Health, Griffith University, from May to October, 2010. The project has now taken on a life of its own through support by the wider community and Music Health Australia.
Project Plan and Timeline 
"I'm blessed that I have music. Some people don't have any outlet whatsoever for life's knocks and they're the people my heart goes out to. Music - to me - is a medicine."
... Archie Roach



 Finding common ground 
"Finding common ground: Musical and social approaches to reconciliation."
Presentation by Sandra Kirkwood, September 12, 2010
Musicological Society of Australia, Student Symposium.
University of Queensland, Brisbane. Australia.


What is reconciliation?                                                      
The need for reconciliation of damaged relationships and healing of the cumulative trauma experienced by the First Peoples of Australia has a long history and is acknowledged to be vitally important to people’s health and well-being in past, present and future society.

From a person-centred perspective, the essence of reconciliation could simply be understood as people who have fallen out, getting back together. This is the standard kind of definition that appears in most dictionaries: ‘reconcile’ means “to make friendly again after an estrangement” (Moore, 1996, p. 902). Synonyms for ‘reconcile’ are to conciliate, accommodate, or harmonise. The word ‘harmonise’ is a musical metaphor for reconciliation which means “to bring (several things) into consonance or relate harmoniously; harmonise the different interests” (Farlex, 2010).

Health and wellbeing
In the context of the current inequalities in health with a large gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and other Australians, reconciliation has also become largely synonymous with finding strategies to ‘Close the Gap’ and to address inequalities in all aspects of living. For example, Reconciliation Australia (2009, p. 23) has produced a document that outlines how the success of Reconciliation Action Plans can be measured by collecting data on seven important social determinants of health that have been associated with Gross National Happiness.

Table 1: Social determinants of health.

1.                  Economic Wellness: Indicated via direct survey and statistical measurement of economic metrics such as consumer debt, average income to consumer price index ration and income distribution.
2.                  Environmental Wellness: Indicated via direct survey and statistical measurement of environmental metrics such as pollution, noise and traffic.
3.                  Physical Wellness: Indicated via statistical measurement of physical health metrics such as severe illnesses.
4.                  Mental Wellness: indicated via direct survey and statistical measurement of mental health metrics such as usage of antidepressants and rise or decline of psychotherapy patients.
5.                  Workplace wellness: indicated via direct survey and statistical measurement of labour metrics such as jobless claims, job change, workplace complaints and lawsuits.
6.                  Social Wellness: indicated via direct survey and statistical measurement of social metrics such as discrimination, safety, divorce rates, complaints of domestic conflicts and family lawsuits, public lawsuits, crime rates.
7.                  Political Wellness: indicated via direct survey and statistical measurement of political metrics such as the quality of local democracy, individual freedom, and foreign conflicts.

These variables were chosen because they are thought to have a long-term impact on improving life expectancy (ibid, p. 23). Reconciliation Australia has also developed a formula for calculating the success of Reconciliation Action Plans, expressed as the RAP indicator.
RAP indicator = Quality of actions x Scale of actions x Significance (ibid, p. 31).
These factors have been defined as indicators that can be measured.
Table 2: Definition of terms used by Reconciliation Australia (ibid, p. 31): 

Was the intended action undertaken within the timeframe?
How do targeted stakeholders assess the quality of the action?
What quantity of the specific action was achieved?
What scale capacity did the organisation have within their sphere of influence, relative to potential organisational benefits?
(This is assumed to equal 1 for all actions)
How significant is the selected action in improving life expectancy?
Which social determinant of health does the action primarily related to? (listed as 1-7 above).

For many people, reconciliation equates largely with restoration of quality of life and wellness which is influenced by the above social determinants of health. Access to educational pathways and opportunities for learning also figure largely in reconciliation because education can influence people's health and well-being through shaping sustainable livelihoods. 


At the Ethnomusicology Futures Forum (2009), Ethnomusicologists from around Australia formed an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander working party to develop a submission in response to the Federal Government’s discussion framework for a National Cultural Policy, which was presented online by the Hon. MP, Peter Garrett at the National Cultural Policy Consultation website.

A submission from the A&TSI Working Party (2009) was forwarded to the Musicological Society of Australia (MSA), and was subsequently endorsed as recommendations for the National Cultural Policy. This supported the 'Closing the Gap' Campaign, because the ethnomusicologists' recommendations advocated for safeguarding Indigenous music traditions and creating better leadership opportunities and educational pathways for Indigenous musicians. 

Members of the A&TSI Working Party which was chaired by Stephen Wild include: Katelyn Barney, Made Hood, Sandra Kirkwood, Lexine Solomon, Myfany Turpin. The forum was initiated by Prof. Huib Schippers, the Director of Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University, and former President of the Musicological Society of Australia.

Musicological Society of Australia statement on a proposed National Cultural Policy - 2009
Building on the Federal government’s discussion framework for a National Cultural Policy, point no. 6
The culture of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders is the unique backbone of Australian identity; it brings meaning to our nation with a culture unbroken in song, dance and stories over millennia.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander performance traditions are in jeopardy. Adequate funding and resources are required for their survival and development.

Specifically we ask the policy to:
1. Ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander performance traditions are part of educational curricula at primary, secondary and tertiary levels across all Australia.
2. Provide opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment in music teaching at all levels.
3. Provide platforms and venues for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander performance traditions, such as festivals, concerts, tours and residencies.
4. Support capacity building and nurture leadership for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander performance artists by:
a) broadening access routes for higher education in music for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders
b) funding postā€graduate scholarships in music for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders
c) fund immersion programs for students to learn Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander performance traditions;
d) provide funding for collaborative documentation and recording of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander performance traditions;
e) provide adequate financial support for organisations that are supporting and promoting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander performance arts.

Each of the recommendations from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ethnomusicology Working Party listed above and the social determinants of health, will be considered in formulating future directions for the Music Health Australia "Orchestrating Reconciliation" project. Investigative research is underway to determine how music has been used to promote reconciliation and healing, to date. Compilation of composed songs and music on this topic are being developed, along with a list of contacts, links and musical resources that can be shared around Australia.

The next step will be to consult with Indigenous corporations and community groups to determine what still needs to be done in the future, and how people may contribute through a musical response that will promote reconciliation, healing and well-being for all Australians -- especially those who have limited access to healthcare, music education and facilities due to geographical isolation, social disadvantage, economic, cultural, linguistic and other factors. Please
contact us if you are interested in being involved in some way. You can join the Music Health email network through completing online registration.

Feedback is sought as to how people can collaborate through 'Orchestrating Reconciliation' within their sphere of influence. What does this mean to people in various locations around Australia, from different cultural backgrounds? Can musical participation make a difference to our lives and improve our emotional and social well-being, or build bridges to reconciliation? Can our creative collaboration help to 'Close the Gap' for people who experience disadvantage or have unmet needs? How would you like to be involved? Please contact us with your thoughts and ideas.



Ashworth, G., & Tunbridge, J. (1996). Dissonant heritage: The management of the past as a resource in conflict. Chichester: Wiley.

Atkinson, J. Trauma Trails: Recreating Song Lines. Melbourne: Spinifex Press, 2002.

Australian Human Rights Commission (2008)



Beyond the apology: An agenda for healing (Chapter 4). Social Justice Report.

Moore, B. (Ed.). (1996). The Australian pocket Oxford dictionary. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.
Reconciliation Australia. (2009). Reconciliation action plan discussion paper: From good intentions to action that works. Measuring the contribution of reconciliation actions in closing the gap. Retrieved 26 December, 2009, from


Strong, S., Rigby, P., Stewart, D., Law, M., Letts, L., & Cooper, B. (1999). Application of the person-environment-occupation model: A practical tool. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 66(3), 122-133.

Farlex (2010) The free dictionary. Retrieved 27 June, 2010, from http://www.thefreedictionary.com/reconcile.

Greiff, P. (2006). The handbook of reparations. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Inteyerrkew Statement from Aboriginal male health summitt (2008). Central Australian Aboriginal Congress www.caac.org.au/malehealthinfo

Law, M., Cooper, B., Strong, S., Stewart, D., Rigby, P., & Letts, L. (1996). The person-environment-occupation model: A transactive approach to occupational performance. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 63(1), 9-23.

Matthews, J., & Aberdeen, L. (2008). Reconnecting: Women and reconciliation in Australia. Women's Studies International Forum, 31, 89-95.

Music, Health and Reconciliation
The Sorry Song  by Kerry Fletcher © ABC Music Publishing 2007
All rights reserved

Kimberley Stolen Generation Aboriginal Corporation Music & CDs

Songman – Bob Randall (plus video Kanyini)

Wikipedia article on song, "From Little Things Big Things Grow". There is the suggestion that this song is considered the anthem of the reconciliation movement.
Links to Policy, Plans and other Strategic Documents
Senate Inquiry into
Submissions can be lodged until 21 November, 2011.
Australian Human Rights Commission annual Social Justice Reports

Indigenous Contemporary Music Initiatives

Indigenous Education Strategic Directions - Queensland

National Indigenous Calendar - Creative Spirits website

UNESCO (1996)
Our Creative Diversity: Report of the World Commission on Culture and Development. Paris.

United Nations (2007) 
Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Special thanks is extended to all those who have contributed and helped with this project from its inception in December, 2009, to the present:
  • School of Public Health, Griffith University
  • Stolen Generations Alliance
  • Music Health Australia
  • Purga Elders and Descendants Aboriginal Corporation
  • Purga Music Museum and Purga Friends Association
  • Yugambeh Museum and Drumley's Walk
  • Musicological Society of Australia
  • Ted Egan, musician, singer, song writer 
  • Miriam Cabello, visual artist
  • Ken Watson, boxing historian
  • Australian National Boxing Federation
Article and web page developed by Sandra Kirkwood from 20 August, 2010; last updated 16 November, 2016. 

© Sandra Kirkwood, 2010.
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