WOMADelaide 2021 – the finale

Many bands hit gold at some point. It might be an era when personnel meshed brilliantly; a concert when repertoire, audience and venue all combined for a stunning show; the final mix of a recording on which they know they really nailed it.

To my mind Midnight Oil had two spectacularly golden moments in their collection: the recording of Beds are Burning, and their appearance in Sorry shirts at the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

Now I have a third golden moment to add: the launch of Makarrata Live at the closing evening of WOMADelaide 2021, in which Midnight Oil collaborated with great First Nations artists such as Leah Flanagan, Troy Cassar-Daley, Frank Yamma and Bunna Lawrie.

WOMADelaide 2021 was always set to be an emotional affair. For most of the bands it was their first major live performance for 12 months.

And from Jamie Goldsmith’s Welcome to Country each evening through to the grand finale, the struggle of First Nations people has been the foundation on which the festival was built.

The Uluru Statement from the Heart called for a Makarrata, and the words of the Statement were blazoned across the backdrop of the stage. Makarrata has many layers of meaning, including truth-telling, conflict resolution, peace-making and a path to justice. 

Makarrata Live
Makarrata Live – the Uluru Statement from the Heart. Photo: Wade Whitington

“Makarrata is the culmination of our agenda: the coming together after a struggle. It captures our aspirations for a fair and truthful relationship with the people of Australia and a better future for our children based on justice and self-determination. 

“We seek a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling about our history. 

“In 1967 we were counted, in 2017 we seek to be heard.”

The three pillars of the Statement are voice, treaty and truth. Even if you’ve read the Statement many times before, it’s worth reading again and watching the video. It’s not too late for our Federal Government to recognise that the Turnbull Government was wrong in rejecting the Statement’s call for a voice enshrined in the Constitution. A voice – not a veto – on laws that impact First Nations people, via a representative body, not a third chamber; it’s such a modest and reasonable request.

Enshrining the voice in the Constitution is critically important, so that a future malevolent Government cannot wipe it out via a vote in Parliament. Minister Whyatt has let us all down badly by not championing a referendum to enshrine the voice.

The day after WOMADelaide 2021 came to this momentous close, the Victorian Government announced The Yoo-rrook Justice Commission, an inquiry into the ongoing impact of colonisation and dispossession. It’s an exciting step forward in the long march towards justice and reconciliation. Public support is gathering strength; aspirational and inspirational political leadership is what’s needed now but is sadly missing.

King Rodney Park / Ityamai-itpina

The name of the venue for WOMADelaide 2021 РKing Rodney Park / Ityamai-itpina Рleft me pondering many questions. According to the Adelaide City Council, Ityamai-itpina was one of three prominent Kaurna Elders with whom early SA colonists negotiated. What was the nature of those negotiations? Or was it really just the Kaurna people generously sharing their knowledge and language with the very colonists who had dispossessed them? Or were the negotiations about the punishment as pacification practised by the colonists? 

The 1834 South Australia Act referred to the land as unoccupied wasteland. But the formal emigration authorisation for the South Australian Company of 1836 required “… nothing … shall affect or be construed to affect the rights of any Aboriginal Natives of the said Province to the actual occupation or enjoyment in their own Persons or in the Persons of their Descendants of any Lands therein now actually occupied or enjoyed by such Natives.” 

George Fife Angas and his fellow directors of the South Australian Company simply ignored that directive. Truth-telling might shine a light on how First Nations people were “dispersed” from their traditional lands and watercourses.

Voice, treaty and truth. Makarrata. 

Siberian Tiger and The Teskey Brothers

Siberian Tiger and The Teskey Brothers played the first two sets for the final night of WOMADelaide 2021, each delivering a superb performance. You’ll find Deb Kloeden’s excellent photos and review in Amnplify here.

Thank you, Midnight Oil, Siberian Tiger, The Teskey Brothers and WOMADelaide for a poignant and supremely significant closing night.

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