Music

Guide

Our favourite Indigenous musicians, authors, comedians, and more

There is so much incredible Indigenous talent across the media and arts landscape. From authors to comedians, musicians to actors, it’s about time we give them the credit their work and their voices deserve.

Naidoc Week 2020 celebrates the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This year’s theme is Always Was, Always Will Be. It recognises that First Nations peoples have occupied and cared for this continent for over 65,000 years. NAIDOC is celebrated not only in Indigenous communities, but by Australians from all walks of life. 

If you haven’t already, use Naidoc Week 2020 as an opportunity to diversify your news feeds and add something new to your tv and book lists. While this is in no way exhaustive, we thought it could be a great place to start. 

A warning to our Aboriginal and Torres Strait readers, the following content may contain images and voices of deceased persons.

To read

Catching Teller Crow – Ambelin Kwaymullina and Ezekiel Kwaymullina

Written by the incredible brother-sister duo Ambelin and Ezekiel Kwaymullina, who come from the Palyku people of the Pilbara region of Western Australia, Catcher Telling Crow is a young adult novel that’s part thriller and part ghost story. Told in alternating perspectives – it tells the story of a young, dead woman Beth Teller who is trying to communicate with her father. Catching Teller Crow seamlessly weaves themes of grief, colonial history, violence against women, love and family through an atmospheric mystery set in a small town in regional Australia.

Dark Emu – Bruce Pascoe

Dark Emu is Indigenous author and advocate Bruce Pascoe’s impassioned plea for further research into the history of Indigenous people pre-colonisation. It calls for a radical revaluation of our understanding of Indigenous culture and the history we have been taught, rebutting the colonial myths that have been used to justify dispossession. For younger readers, Pascoe has also released Young Dark Emu .

The Yield – Tara June Winch

Winner of the Miles Franklin Literary Award 2020, and the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards 2020 – for Fiction, People’s Choice and Book of the Year, Wiradjuri author Tara June Winch’s latest book The Yield is stunning. It tells the story of a young woman named August Gondiwindi who returns to her family home by the Murrumby River on Massacre Plains after her grandfather Albert’s death. She soon discovers that Albert had begun to write a Wiradjuri dictionary before his death. A story of a people and a culture dispossessed, but also a celebration of what was and what endures, and a powerful reclaiming of Indigenous language, storytelling and identity.

Too Much Lip – Melissa Lucashenko

Melissa Lucashenko is a Goorie author of the Bundjalung people from northern coastal New South Wales, her latest novel Too Much Lip is a darkly comic story about a wise-cracking woman named Kerry Slater who, when she hears that her Pop is dying, heads home on a stolen motorbike and discovers just how strong the pull of one’s home country can be.

Talking To My Country – Stan Grant

Stan Grant, a Wiradjuri and Kamilaroi journalist and acclaimed author, dives deep into what this country is and what it could be in Talking To My Country. An extraordinarily powerful and personal dive into race, culture, and national identity, this is Grant’s meditation on what it means to be Australian, what it means to be Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, and what racism really means in this country.

To watch

Wrong Kind of Black (Netflix)

This ABC webseries centres around the early life experiences of Birri-gubbah-Kunggandji-Kukuimudji man Boori Monty Pryor and his brother Paul. Largely set in the inner-city north of 1970s Melbourne, the pair navigate racial tensions, Aboriginal rights issues, and police encounters amid disco and discrimination. You can watch it here.

Mad Bastards (Netflix)

TJ is a hard-edged Aboriginal man who’s sick of scraping out an existence in the city. He travels to the tiny frontier town of Five Rivers in search of his son Bullet. Upon his arrival, TJ is confronted by the equally tough local cop Texas, and so begins a story about hard men battling to do the right thing by their family. Real people with no previous acting experience played the film’s lead roles, bringing an intimacy and freshness to the screen. You can watch it here.

Black As (SBS On Demand)

Off beat and off track, go bush with the Black As boys as they venture into the wilds of Arnhem Land, hunting for adventure and a good feed. Centred around the daily lives of three Aboriginal men and one Scottish-born white man from a remote corner of Arnhem Land, their idea was to show the outside world this amazing bush life of hunting and living off the land, stories of survival, adventure, cars, and near disasters. You can watch it here.

Gurrumul (SBS On Demand)

Celebrated by audiences at home and abroad, Indigenous artist Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu was one of the most important and acclaimed voices to ever come out of Australia. Blind from birth, he found purpose and meaning through songs and music inspired by his community and country on Elcho Island in far North East Arnhem Land. Living a traditional Yolngu life, his breakthrough album Gurrumul brought him to a crossroads as audiences and artists around the world began to embrace his music. You can watch it here.

Freeman (ABC iView)

Cathy Freeman’s win at the Sydney 2000 Olympics is undoubtedly one of the greatest collective experiences in Australian modern history. Watched by billions of people worldwide, the 400-metre sprint on the evening of September 25 had everyone from Sydney to Arnhem Land glued to the TV. Twenty years later, Freeman explores the beauty of this singular moment and celebrates the power of human connection. You can watch it here.

The Australian Dream (ABC iView)

The remarkable story of Indigenous AFL legend Adam Goodes. Through the backdrop of Goodes’ journey, the feature documentary explores race, identity and belonging in Australia today. It prompts questions about Australia’s relationship with racism and its ability to confront its own past. This compelling, provocative and cinematic film uses interviews from both sides of the debate to ask probing and fundamental questions about what it means to be Australian and what it takes for any individual to stand up for what they truly believe in. You can watch it here.

In My Blood It Runs (ABC iView)

The critically-acclaimed documentary told through the eyes of charismatic 10-year-old Arrernte/Garrwa boy, Dujuan and his family, revealing the challenges Dujuan faces both in his school and on the streets of Alice Springs. You can watch it here.

To laugh with

Steph Tisdell

One of the brightest stars to explode on the Australian comedy scene in recent years, Ydinji Aboriginal woman Steph Tisdell has been winning over audiences ever since she won 2014’s Deadly Funny National Grand Final with her stories of cultural experiences, dating, body image, mental health, and more. She’s performed sell-out shows on stages around the world and appeared on TV shows including Just for Laughs Australia and The Project. She has earned herself a stack of awards and nominations and was part of the Aboriginal Comedy All Stars lineup, who sold out nights across Edinburgh Fringe before heading to London’s Soho Theatre.

Nakkiah Lui

Nakkiah Lui, a proud Gamillaroi and Torres Strait Islander woman from Mount Druitt, Western Sydney, juggles many roles – actor, writer, comedian, playwright, director – and through her work, she has been pivotal in bringing First Nations representation and voices to mainstream Australian TV. As co-writer and cast member of Black Comedy, Lui shows off her sharp wit and knack for impactful satire, showcasing the politically-edged humour that makes her and the show uniquely funny and relatable.

Sean Choolburra

Sean Choolburra, a proud Girramay, Kalkadoon, Pitta Pitta and Gugu Yalanji man, is known as the undisputed “master of the move” for good reason, having come to comedy after a successful dance career. Recognised as one of Australia’s funniest and most enduring comedians, his comedy is created from a wide variety of lifetime experiences, stories, and observations. 

To listen to

The wealth of Indigenous music makers across Australia is impossible to summarise in a paragraph, so instead we’re going to point you to some of our favourite playlists chockful of the artists you need to know.

Blak Australia

Regularly curated by members of the local Indigenous community, the playlist comprises of 50 songs, and aims to be an immersion into the diverse sounds of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander music. It changes every week, so you’ll always hear something new. Listen here.


Looking Out Looking In (Volume 6)

From City of Melbourne, this instalment of LOLI is curated by Kee’ahn, Soju Gang and DJ PGZ. Music plays an important role in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures enabling the communication of knowledge and wisdom, to express experiences, thoughts, wants and fears. Listen here.

Songs in Language: The Australian Indigenous Languages playlist

To celebrate the International Year of Indigenous Languages (2019), AIATSIS brings you a playlist that features some of the 250+ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. Listen here.


Pilerats Presents: Indigenous Australia

If you’re keen to hear from the next generation of Indigenous voice, discover something new with this playlist. A one-stop-shop into the incredibly important musical minds of the First Nations, brought to you by Pilerats. You can listen here.



NAIDOC LIVE: Celebrating Blak Excellence

As NAIDOC Week closes on Saturday 14 November, Facebook Australia will livestream NAIDOC LIVE: Celebrating Blak Excellence featuring performances and appearances from some of Australia’s top Indigenous talent including Archie Roach, Ash Barty, Kate (Konstantina) Constantine, Wayne Quilliam and more, including Jessica Mauboy in a Facebook world first XR video production that reimagines her song ‘Butterfly’. Hosted by acclaimed First Nations entertainer Mitch Tambo, the show will air live from 6pm AEDT,  and use Facebook’s live donation tools to raise money for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation. Tune in here.

To hear from

Instagram account @BlackBusiness has been sharing an incredible array of resources throughout the week – a must-follow if you’re keen to continue your learning long after NAIDOC week 2020 has ended. One of their recent posts includes a list of brilliant podcasts created by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. From inspiring conversations with Indigenous trailblazers to advice on starting your own business and autism awareness in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities, every one of these podcasts is sharing stories and voices that deserve to be heard.

To learn more

Besides following social media accounts to diversify your feeds, there are also a plethora of resources available online to continue your learning.

A great place to start is to learn what country you’re on. Mainland ‘Australia’ is comprised of more than 250 Aboriginal countries, and knowing the name of the country you are on is important for acknowledging and understanding place and history.

@BlackBusiness has put together a great guide including the AIATSIS Map of Indigenous Australia and Gambay First Language Map. There are also some really cool templates you can fill out to share on your socials too.

In Australia, there are more than 250 Indigenous languages including around 800 dialects. Languages are living things that connect people to Country, culture and ancestors. Thanks to the 50 Words Project, run by Melbourne University’s Research Unit for Indigenous Language and engaging with Indigenous communities, you can hear the authentic word pronunciations of 50 everyday words in more than 60 languages, such as ‘welcome’, ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’. You can listen here.

This year’s NAIDOC Week theme is Always Is, Always Will Be. You can learn more about it here: https://www.naidoc.org.au/.