Goanna: superb at WOMADelaide 2022

The Goanna reunion performance was a wonderful emotion-charged event. It was clear they were having the time of their lives on the main stage at WOMADelaide 2022. Respect was flowing freely from and to the band.

Together and in their solo careers Shane Howard, Rose Bygrave & Marcia Howard have made Australia a better place through their music and activism.

They’re great storytellers, in their songwriting, performing and in person. 

And it’s storytelling with a purpose. They helped clear a path forward for First Nations audiences and performers. 

Goanna at WOMADelaide 2022
Goanna at WOMADelaide 2022. Photo: Brian Loffler

At a Folk Festival in South Australia’s Victor Harbor – probably 2001 – Rose Bygrave talked about the early years of touring with what was then known as The Goanna Band. They toured many regional areas, and it wasn’t unusual for them to have to do a bit of “hostage-taking” with local pubs and clubs management: “We’re not going on stage till Aboriginal fans are allowed into the audience.” 

Rose Bygrave at WOMADelaide 2022
Rose Bygrave at WOMADelaide 2022. Photo: Hugh Rudham

Rose and her fellow Goanna members used their shows to push for social justice and rights for First Nations people. Rose’s superb anthem Walking Home on her 2001 solo album was a culmination of that effort, celebrating the massive Walk for Reconciliation on Sydney Harbour Bridge on 28th May 2000, when 250,000 walked across the bridge in a astonishing show of support.

Marcia Howard at WOMADelaide 2022
Marcia Howard at WOMADelaide 2022. Photo: Hugh Rudham

Ten years earlier in the studio, Rose had also acted as a vocal coach – and backing singer – for Yothu Yindi when they recorded their seminal track Treaty.

Emma Donovan at WOMADelaide 2022
Emma Donovan with Goanna at WOMADelaide 2022. Photo: Hugh Rudham

On stage at WOMADelaide 2022, that long history of respecting and valuing cultural and musical exchange was exemplified when that great First Nations icon Emma Donovan joined Goanna on stage and powered her way through a song, swapping verses, hand-in-hand with Rose.

Shane Howard at WOMADelaide 2022
Shane Howard at WOMADelaide 2022. Photo: Hugh Rudham

Right from the early years, members of The Goanna Band were also a focus for environmental campaigns. After meeting Bob Brown, they travelled to Tasmania in support of the Save the Franklin campaign.

Graham Davidge at WOMADelaide 2022
Graham Davidge at WOMADelaide 2022. Photo: Hugh Rudham

Shane Howard‘s song Let the Franklin Flow became a theme-song for the activism that eventually led to the cancellation of the disastrous Franklin Dam proposal.

John Schumann of Redgum worked with Shane on the Franklin campaign
John Schumann of Redgum worked with Shane on the Franklin campaign. Photo: Hugh Rudham

Thank you WOMADelaide for helping to bring Goanna back to life, and thank you Goanna for such a unique and valuable contribution to culture, music and community.

William Barton with Goanna at WOMADelaide 2022
William Barton with Goanna at WOMADelaide 2022. Photo: Hugh Rudham

For the final word, here’s how Rose tells it on her special 42minute video chat for the Australian Music Vault: “I think music plays a really big part in bringing communities together. I think songs that address issues of social justice, cultural acknowledgment… different perspectives… all these kind of things are in music, so the songwriter’s job is to articulate what is the voice of the times.”

One thought on “Goanna: superb at WOMADelaide 2022

  1. Bravo! To Rose Bygrave, Goanna band and associates, First Nations performers and of course Shane, for this pioneering and most significant contribution to social justice and to music in this country and for coming generations.

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