Tag Archive: activist

Taking music to the refugees on Manus

I really am not sure how to start this post because the past month and a half has been totally out of the box as far as my usual daily life goes. If you have read my previous posts you will see how I began to engage in the issue of offshore detention and the plight of the refugees being held indefinitely by the Australian government. How did it all begin? and why am I still engaged?

Well it began when I started to notice my good friend textile artist Ruth Halbert started to write letters to the Prime Minster (Malcolm Turnbull at that time) about the refugees on Manus on Nauru. She wrote a letter everyday for 2 years…..yep over 600 letters in all. I also saw her posts on social media condemning the government and it’s behaviour towards the refugees being detained. I found it hard to believe, but, I have a huge amount of respect for Ruth and she is an intelligent woman so I couldn’t ignore it. She was stepping out of her comfort zone and that is what stood out for me the most…I had to investigate further.

I then had a friend request from one of the refugees on Manus who was in a terrible situation. They were being forcibly moved to the new camps and they were having the power cut off and water tanks were being smashed by guards in 4WDs, it was terrible and he was in panic. I felt helpless and I needed to do something. I started protesting with Ruth and I wrote letters to the Members of Parliament but I needed to do more….I needed to dig deeper I needed to find something within myself that would rise and take action. So I had to go to Manus to meet these men and to engage with them and learn more.

I took a film maker and we went in March of 2018 and I took my guitar with the intention to play music and we were going to produce a documentary. I wanted to find a way to show the people in my town that these men were real people just like us. I wanted to show people that what we were doing to them as a nation was wrong very wrong. We came back with a documentary and I took it to many towns and communities in WA and NSW and it made an incredible impact. Everyone I met was horrified at what was happening and people would ask what can we do? How can we end this?

Music from Manus – 5 Days not 5 Years, March 2018 (Dawn Barrington and Tim Maisey)

I really wasn’t sure how people could help but my mission as a singer songwriter was to suggest to others to use their art like Ruth had and like I was doing to bring attention to the situation. This had been going on for over 4 years and 1000s of people across Australia had written letters to MPs and protested and yet the refugees were still there in terrible conditions.

By the end of last year I felt I needed to go again just to offer some more support through music and I also assisted Anne Moon with the work that she does to support the men. Anne has been working tirelessly for the past 5 years for these guys and she wasn’t getting any younger and I was able to offer some support for her. So off we went and we didn’t know if we were going to get it because it’s not easy to get there and since I had quite a large online presence I wasn’t sure if they would stop me at the airport and send me back. It had happened a friend of mine only 4 weeks earlier so it really was a possibility.

We spent time in Port Moresby and on Manus and the newspaper article below gives the rest of the story which was not what we were expecting. I did get to play some music with the refugees and I took an extra guitar and did some teaching and it was lovely to see the guys again and to meet some that I hadn’t met before too. But they were all very sick and many had multiple problems and many of them were not being treated and hadn’t been treated for years. It really is terrible what is happening there an there is so much more to this story. I have added a few facebook posts to give you some examples of what happened there.

I played music with Kazem and Farhad and I was there for my birthday so Kazem made me a beautiful cake shown here in the photo. I saw many of the refugees that I saw before and lots of new ones and they all put on a very brave face. They are the most graceful and kind people I have ever met and they all are very sick. They all have so many medical problems that have not been treated for so many years and Australia will not take responsibility for it. It is so frustrating and so wrong. I really quite honestly don’t know what to do with it in my head….it’s happening in real life and yet we are all powerless to change the situation because the government have this ridiculous policy in place. These are real people and they are being treated so badly and it’s all wrong so very wrong.

It was also wonderful to meet Behrouz Boochani the author of “No Friends but the Mountains” which is an incredible read. He is a humble incredibly smart man and he really does think big picture. We had a lovely day on my birthday a bunch of the guys came to the hotel and we had cake and music which was lovely.

It was a difficult time overall because I knew there was not really much we could except listen to their stories and I hope playing a bit of music helped in some way too.

Kazem and me on my birthday.

Townsville & NSW Tour of “Music from Manus” Documentary Screenings

Townsville was a Blast!

I had the best time in Townsville! It was warm, actually compared to Denmark it was really hot!! Townsville was much dryer than I expected and I’m not sure why I was expecting the tropics because it’s not that far north really.  Even though it was the middle of winter it was very dry and quite flat too to my surprise but quite a vibrant multicultural community which was fantastic to see and be a part of.  It was wonderful to meet Farvardin Daliri organiser of the Townsville Cultural Fest at long last and his son Erfin Daliri…they are both doing fantastic work in the areas of social cohesion and raising awareness of the important things in life…equality, justice and peace on earth.

I met some amazing people there including the lovely Anisa Nanduala who is activist/poet studying politics, she is only 19 years old but incredibly astute and aware.  She speaks really well and her poetry is very powerful.  Interestingly she had her performance just before mine and the man who was in charge of the engineering company heckled her….I was disgusted…he was an older guy and obviously did not approve of a young strong Ugandan woman speaking up for what she believed in….but she kept going regardless which in itself was powerful.  However, it was very disappointing to witness and I hope that he is in the minority.  All in all I met an incredible diverse group of people who come from all corners of this very round planet and they were smiling, dancing and generally having a great time. My favourite band Kallidad were there and it was wonderful to catch up with the Jace, Julz and Tom because I have missed them twice when they have been in Denmark WA (my home town).  I haven’t seen them play for at least a year so it was great to dance my socks off again.  Another highlight was to see Baker Boy, what an awesome band they are….they really do bring energy and fun to the stage.  Danzal Baker is fantastic with the audience, he really does know how to interact with them well. It just so turned out that they were staying in the same accommodation as me, so it doesn’t get much more exciting than that!!  I even got almost all of 2 seconds of time in this promo video….Folk n Roll!!!

NSW Documentary Screenings

After the Townsville Festival I hopped on a plane to Sydney and grabbed a car and drove up to Gosford for my first “Music from Manus” documentary screening that was being held at The Avoca Picture Theatre in Gosford.  It was a fantastic evening and Danni Habib did a great job of organising the event and I had the most amazing response to the documentary which really set me up for the rest of the tour. The format I used was that I first

introduced myself and talked a bit about how I got engaged in the whole issue and then I sang 2 songs and then we did the screening and then we had Q and A afterwards.  There were many great questions asked and the overwhelming response was that people were inspired to do more after the event.  It’s much more than I could have ever asked for. My whole purpose for going to Manus was to try to engage people in the issue and hope that they would be encouraged to do more.

The next day I drove up to Newcastle where I stayed with Amanda Perram, another great advocate for the refugees on Manus and Emma Comely joined us from Sydney.  It was our first meeting with Amanda who is a wealth of information when it comes to the recent years of lies and deceit coming from the Australian government. It really is great to at last meet with all these amazing women who are doing incredible work across Australia in supporting the refugees.

In Newcastle I met with Nikola Leka who organised the screening with Hunter Asylum Seeker Avocacy group and it was another great night with lots of new connections made and a fantastic response to the documentary itself.  I then drove down to Sydney the very next day where I stayed with Emma Comely for a couple of days.  That night was the Teachers for Refugees and Refugee Action Collective screening in Surry Hills which was a great location. That is where I met with Mark Goudkamp and also film director Ian Stevenson and a number of other advocates that I have been in contact with on facebook throughout this whole journey. Ian was very impressed with the documentary and he was very keen to talk about submitting it to SBS which we talked further about and he has now submitted it. So we are waiting for a reply and fingers crossed that something can come from that because that would be a much wider audience and a real chance to see more change in attitudes.

I had Thursday off then I drove down to Thirroul on Friday to meet with Patrick Harrison who was organising the screening there where we had a full house and very keen bunch of people.  I met a lovely lady Naomi Lai there too who is also an advocate and she sent her mum to the screening for the following in the Eurobodalla region. I stayed with Mairi Peterson in Shell Harbour which is  a lovely spot and it was wonderful to see Russell Hannah at the screening too. I have stayed with Mairi a few times now and I have talked about her before….she is this incredible woman who has been fighting for refugees for 20 years and I have a huge amount of admiration for her.  Once again in Thirroul we had a very attentive audience and I am just amazed each time at how everyone gets something different from the screening but the end result is everyone wants to do more which is brilliant.  I know I keep using the words amazing, brilliant, fantastic over and over but there is no other way to describe how much I love this work and the fact that it overlaps with my work as an artist (singer songwriter) is even more incredible because I can use the very essence that drives me to create social change in my own small way.

It was a three and a half hour drive down to the Eurobodalla region where I was staying with Marn and Peter Cole.  I think I got the presidential suite and I was totally spoilt and it was wonderful to meet and spend time with Marn and Peter too. We did the screening in Moyura and this was the last one so I was feeling a sense of relief that I had gotten through the 10 days.  I met more wonderful people from the Refugee Action Collective Eurobodalla who organised the event.

It was a five and a half hour drive back to Sydney the next day….it was beautiful drive and I was buzzing with adrenaline from the previous days and I was really happy to get back to Emma’s where we hung out for a few days and  I enjoyed a rest.  I flew back to Perth on the Tuesday and drove back down Denmark which is another 5 hours the same day so I was buggered once I got home.  It really has been an incredible journey and from here I am going to be spending some time recording and playing music and writing new songs and engaging more in my music.  So I will close for now but I’m going to write update in just a few days to report on the recording weekend that I had a few weeks ago and festivals and gigs that are coming my way. YEW FOLK N ROLE!!! LOVING IT!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

Townsville Festival and beyond

It’s almost time to pack my bags and get ready to go again. Next week I am off to Townsville Cultural Fest and I am soooo excited about it.  I am even more excited to have a little feature photo on the program.  The Townsville Cultural Festival is an all inclusive all ages festival which is the amazing work of Farvardin Daliri who has been running this festival for the past 30 years.  He has a wonderful team of people there including his son who have worked hard to make it happen each year with no government grants or funding. (I have inserted the program at the end of this post)

GIGGING LAND
I’ve had a fair variety of gigs the past couple of months, the Manjimup Truffle Kerfuffle was a great opportunity to play to a totally different audience and what a fantastic venue! I also played my first gig at Freehand Wines which was lovely…Matt and Danni are a lovely couple who are passionate about what they do and they love to have live music at their cellar door 2 nights a week which is wonderful for us musicians.

Then I got an opportunity to play for the WAM Winter Sounds Series which was at Brookfield Place in Perth.  This is a very upmarket dining place in the big smoke where the corporate mob go to have lunch. It was a great gig and once again nice to get paid well for a gig of all original songs. Thanks WAM for that. On Sunday just gone I played at Six Degrees Albany and it was my first 3 hour gig for while and I have to say probably my best.  I had an awesome night, with great hosts and an wonderful audience.  I hope I can do it all again soon.

Documentary screenings have also filled my time and as much as I try to keep my music separate to the documentary screenings it seems like a strange thing to do now.  My music has been inspired by the things that I am concerned about and the plight of the refugees is the most current concern right now although I am not limited to that issue.  There are many concerns and my music is my vehicle to express what I need to say with clarity. I am a communicator and I spend most of my time engaged in the big issues we face today and expressing those concerns is, I feel, the most useful thing that I can do for myself and for the planet and humanity.

DOCUMENTARY SCREENINGS
I have done a number of documentary screenings and I absolutely love doing them! I have done one at the Agricultural Colllege of Denmark, the B’hai youth group and a home schoolers group as well as a community group in Walpole WA.  I have a heap of screenings organised in the next couple of weeks from Townsville to Newcastle, Gosford, Sydney, Thirroul and Eurobodalla.  I am so excited about meeting all the refugee groups and advocates that I have become friends with on social media over the past 12 or so months. I absolutely love the work that I do and it gives me so much pride that I can do this.

The format for the screening events is that I introduce myself and I talk about how I got involved in this whole thing and then I play 2 songs which are the songs I have dedicated to the refugees on Manus and Nauru since June of 2017.  Then I show the documentary and then I do a Q and A afterwards and I have found people really do engage with the whole situation. I feel that people really do care but they are just overwhelmed with the terrible way in which the policy has become a political tool and the magnitude of it.  Many people are fearful to discuss about the subject matter because it has become so political and I find that when the bare facts are placed there with the music and the joy of playing music with these lovely young men the viewers become disarmed.  They actually see the refugees are real people with the same human traits as all of us and that is the most exciting moment for me because it’s at that moment that I can see change is possible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finishing off the Year and bring in 2018

Well it’s that time of year again and what a year it has been.  I spend way too much time each day thinking that I am not doing enough in one way or another and yet when I look back on the past 12 months I can see that I’ve done more than enough to fill anyone’s calendar.

This year started with the production of my 2nd album, how could I forget that memorable 10 days? Toby came down from Perth to set up his studio in my music room and a bunch of amazing artists and friends came and put down their tracks. Tony King my teacher and mentor and Toby should get the most credit because they work so well together and I just love what they come up with everytime. While Toby finished the mixing off I went to Sydney for another tour where I got to play at some amazing places and meet some wonderful people.  It was a huge sense of achievement too because it’s not easy to go off on your own to play at venues that you’ve never played before, because you never know what reception you’re going to get.  However, had a fantastic time and I got to meet some lovely friends there including fellow musician friends who came to see me play.  

This year I have clocked up a pile of gigs too and Peter Caron joined me for  many of them which was lots of fun. It’s always good to share the stage and have a good laugh on the way home at all the things that happened throughout the night.  Thanks Peter for such a great year of musical shenanigans.  We also played at the Denmark Festival of Voice where I launched my Album “When did it change?“.

This year was also my year of House Concerts, I did more house concerts this year than I have ever done and it’s such a great experience.  I met a lot of lovely people and learnt a lot about myself and how I want to present my act.  What do I want to share with the audience? How do I do that in a way that is complementary to my music and staying true to who I am as an artist?  They are questions I ask myself everyday.  I guess I’m just working it all out as I go along.  I did house concerts in Denmark, Sydney, Kalgoorlie, Manjimup, Kendenup, Northam and Warnbro and I’m looking forward to doing my first one for 2018 in Mandurah in March.

One of the biggest things that happened for me this year was that my son Andrew went on a school trip to New York and he’s only 15 years old.  He was so excited and so were we but I was so anxious too. It was his first time away from home for such a long time and he was going to NEW YORK….I mean isn’t that the place where all sorts of terrible things happen…yeah I know I’m being a bit pathetic, but the most ridiculous things go through your head when your only child is leaving the country for a few weeks without you.  He had the time of his life and came back a new young man glowing with confidence and self esteem that no school lesson or other experience could have offered.

Finally this year was my year of many radio interviews too, I am very grateful to all the lovely presenters who invited me into their studio to talk about me and my music and especially to those who offered me an opportunity to play a song too. Not to forget the phone interviews too. They include John Regan from Northside Radio 99.3 fm, John Tonks from Voice of the Avon 101.3 fm , James Monte from Monte Famous Mondays,  John Maddison and David Sims from Albany Community Radio 109.3 fm, Chris Spencer from Australian Sporgasbord ORC fm,  ABC Kalgoorlie fm  and ABC Albany. It’s fantastic to have the opportunity to play and put your music out there.  I would like to make a special thank you you Pete Williams from Sunbury fm 99.3 fm’s “Made in the Shade” for the fantastic review of my recently released album “When did it Change?”.  It was incredibly exciting to receive such a wonderful review which I have pinned at the top of my facebook page and it’s also become a wonderful resource that I can use when applying for gigs, festivals and other events. I want to thank all the presenters who continue to play my music too, it’s only because of you guys that independent artists can get heard by a larger audience.  I would just like to thank a lovely presenter that is all the way across the states in Tasmania who plays my tracks Dave Anger from WNCM100.3 fm .  Thanks Dave and I look forward to coming in for an interview when I come to Tasmania next year.

Wishing you all a fantastic Summer break (or winter if you’re in the northern hemisphere) and I look forward to many more musical shenanigans and surprises for in 2018 including an opportunity to play at a big festival over east. More to come on that soon.  Also I will be recording my next album too…..I’ll keep you posted on that one too.

Bye for now xox

 

 

 

“Coffee my Dear”

This is a video I put together for a song I wrote in 2014.  The song is called Coffee my Dear but it isn’t actually anything to do with coffee really.  I was watching the news one day and there were reports of people starving in African countries and talk about climate change causing heavy rain in India which caused severe landslides.  I felt helpless as I always did when I used to watch TV and see these tragic stories and situations.   So I started writing a song and after writing the verses I put it away for 6 months or so and then one day I was at my local coffee shop Mrs Jones and I heard these two older ladies complaining about their coffee and it brought me to the thinking about the things that we take for granted.  It’s not that I have a problem with complaining about things, I mean I do it to but on this particular day I was feeling sensitive and frustrated with these two ladies and felt the need to express my concerns in a way that was not too confrontational.  So I put my thoughts into words and that’s where the chorus came from “How do you take your coffee my dear, would that be straight frothy or clear?”. So in essence the song expresses my concerns about climate change and the stark reality of how we can get caught up in the finer details of day to day living.

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