The Gold Coast Bulletin - Gold Coast Eye - - CONTENTS - AS TOLD TO SALLY COAT ES

Iwas born in Casino with a younger brother and sis­ter and my par­ents are both school­teach­ers. We moved around the Tweed Val­ley and Len­nox Head and then lived on the Tweed Coast after that.

With my par­ents be­ing teach­ers it was just the na­ture of the busi­ness.

I didn’t mind mov­ing around. We got to make dif­fer­ent friends in dif­fer­ent ar­eas.

I was re­ally into surf­ing and mu­sic grow­ing up. Mum and Dad both play gui­tar. Dad loved surf­ing and fish­ing.

Mum grew up in a big fam­ily, on the in­dige­nous side of the fam­ily. Grow­ing up we’d be on the back of fish­ing boats, dig­ging pipis and sea worms, mud crab­bing. Salt­wa­ter life­style.

I’ve al­ways been cu­ri­ous about mu­sic, the art of it. Through high school I was in lit­tle bands, play­ing gui­tar at lunchtime. It was the cool thing to do.

The gui­tar was al­ways around the house. I’d wake up in the morn­ing and play gui­tar. It was never far away. I grew up lis­ten­ing to Paul Si­mon, Michael Jack­son, Ste­vie Won­der. Dad loved Jethro Tull, Neil Young. We lis­tened to ev­ery­thing. My Nan was into opera. That used to put us to sleep.

When we got to high school we met a lot of other mob who were cul­tur­ally con­nected to the re­gion. A cou­ple of old un­cles put an abo­rig­i­nal dance troupe to­gether, they just put it out to the com­mu­nity and we all put our hand up. That was way back in ’92.

Since then we’ve per­formed all around Aus­tralia – lo­cal, on to state then na­tional. It was amaz­ing. It was a good way to build our con­fi­dence and get an un­der­stand­ing of our sur­round­ings and cul­tur­ally con­nect to the land.

We’d be dancing for our re­gions. There’d be five to 10 dances and songs about fish­ing, hunt­ing, cel­e­bra­tion of find­ing food and what­not. Fast, quick dances. We ended up head­ing down to Syd­ney and opened the Syd­ney School Spectacular in ‘96 or ‘97. That was a high­light.

It’s bring­ing back mem­o­ries now. It was awe­some. We had a girl’s troupe as well. We made life­long friends.

What I do now is travel around to schools and do my own cul­tural per­for­mances, play­ing gui­tar, didgeri­doo and stomp box. It’s been al­most a decade. I de­scribe it as en­ter­tain­ing and con­tem­po­rary In­dige­nous cul­tural ed­u­ca­tion.

This year I col­lab­o­rated with a Syd­ney-based In­dige­nous il­lus­tra­tor, David Hardy, who has worked with Dis­ney on The Lion King 3: Hakuna Matata, Tarzan II, Lilo & Stitch 2: Stich Has a Gl­itch and Re­turn to Nev­er­land for my book se­ries. It’s a six-book ad­ven­ture se­ries called The Proud Foots. They’re kids’ books and they ex­plore Aus­tralia’s Abo­rig­i­nal and Tor­res Strait Is­lan­der cul­tures and will hope­fully in­spire peo­ple to learn about In­dige­nous cul­tures from around the world.

We used to per­form for NAIDOC week, wear­ing lap-laps and all painted up. We were a lit­tle bit ner­vous per­form­ing in front of our own


mob, but it made us feel proud.

I per­form in many dif­fer­ent set­tings – from af­flu­ent Mel­bourne sub­urbs to ru­ral Aus­tralia. I think racism is there if you go look­ing for it. I’m pretty open-minded and ac­cept­ing. I try to go into ev­ery­thing with a bal­anced mind­set. The big­gest thing I find is that you can avert al­most ev­ery­thing by com­mu­ni­cat­ing. I feel com­mu­ni­cat­ing is a big thing. If you go in with­out an open mind and pre­con­ceived no­tion you can set a tense sit­u­a­tion up to be a cer­tain way. When you lis­ten to some of the old ones talk you’ve gotta be open-minded and draw­ing on that per­spec­tive of pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ences you can guide your way. You just can’t get drawn into the nega­tiv­ity.

I think in life the most im­por­tant thing is to be pas­sion­ate about what you do. I love what I do be­cause it’s en­light­en­ing peo­ple on In­dige­nous cul­ture in a method I love.

If you go to bed think­ing about some­thing you know that’s for you. You’ll know if some­thing is for you or not, it’s about stick­ing at it. You need to want to do it. You can achieve re­ally great things if you’re pas­sion­ate.

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