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Busking from Denmark WA to Melbourne VIC for refugee justice

All packed and ready to go

It was just an idea, one of those ideas that comes to mind when I am trying to find ways to raise awareness about the plight of refugees stuck in Port Moresby, Nauru and those who are here on mainland Australia. While this injustice occurs I can’t rest so I am always thinking of different ways to bring the information to more people. There are too many people who don’t realise the tragic stories that each of the refugees that were sent to Manus and Nauru are carrying. We also don’t know enough about the barbaric way that refugees are detained in Australia. So I as an artist can use my music to grab people’s attention and bring them into the world that I believe is Australia’s dirty secret. 

Caiguna Road House

Please join me on this incredible journey that I took in my car with my guitar and what I know about the situation. I plastered my car with signs because I wanted it to be very clear what I was doing. It was not comfortable at times because people definitely treated me differently and some of those that did talk to me couldn’t wait to say something that they felt about refugees. I didn’t take any of it personally but I was aware of how lonely it was a times. I was only lonely in the moments that these incidents happened though and I knew that all the way I was being supported by 100s of people across Australia. I got so many messages of support from advocates and people who want justice for these vulnerable people. The refugees were also incredibly proud and excited that someone was doing this for them which in itself made it so worthwhile and is what kept me going. 

The great Australian Bite

I had to leave Denmark WA a week late because of the bush fires on the Nullabor and there was a moment when I had to make a decision whether it was a sensible idea to go at all. But nothing could hold me back once the decision was made. My first port of call was Esperance where I stayed for one night with a lovely Vietnamese family who were refugees. Then on I went, I was nervous because I didn’t know if the road would be open at Caiguna (my next stop) but it was so nice once I got on my way I was happy and relieved. The road was open and Caiguna roadhouse was my first camping spot, it’s a dry and dusty roadhouse with powered and unpowered sites. I paid for a powered site but very quickly realised that the space was not suitable for tents so I moved to an unpowered site. It was just a dusty patch under a small tree. The generator was going most of the night and the main road was very close, these were all things I had not anticipated. I still got a good nights sleep and felt pretty refreshed to move on the next day.  My next stop was Penong where I camped in a relatively reasonable campsite and then I did airbnb in Port Augusta, it was 42°. Every night that I camped I had my signs in and outside of my car. It was very interesting to see how people responded or didn’t respond. Some people were very quick to make a case against the refugees before they had even considered asking me more about it. I purposely made what I was doing very visible because I wanted to put myself in the line of fire. I have done lots of touring and presenting my work to groups of people that are very compassionate towards the refugees and already doing lots of work to seek change in the system. 

I felt that this on this trip I needed to step further out of my comfort zone because that is the only way that I can connect or interact with the “others”. I know that the minute people talk to me they can see what a considered and understanding person that I am. I always find ways to challenge their perspective, even if that means I say nothing. They throw lines at me and I listen and give a considered response which usually ends in a question or two. I want to be on even ground with them, I want to understand where they are coming from. Because when push comes to a shove we are all the same. Yes I get frustrated and yes I get despondent but I never loose faith in humanity and our ability to heal and reach to others.

Me and Karam in Adelaide Immigration Transfer Accommodation.

I spent a week in Adelaide and while there I visited a refugee who was on Manus for 6 years and had been medivaced here to Australia and is still stuck in detention. I took Iranian treats that I bought from the Iranian store and we sat and chatted and chatted and laughed and there was sadness too as he talked about missing his family that he hadn’t seen for almost 7 years. While there I saw another refugee walk into the room and I went over to shake his hand and greet him, then the guard came over. There are guards watching you all the time when you visit refugees. The guard threatened to end the visit because I was not allowed to talk with other refugees and he also threatened to send the guy I was visiting back to his room. I couldn’t believe it…at the end of the visit I complained to the other guard and told them it was totally out of line for them in to intimidate me like that. He could have just told me the rules first and I would have complied. 

Parliament House Adelaide

While in Adelaide I went to Parliament House and did a busking protest. I had a great response and managed to play for 45 mins before the Police came and moved me on. I continued on to Melbourne and spent a week there. I stayed with a fellow refugee advocate and my plan was to busk and I also had a “Manus, Music Talks” concert lined up in Bittern at the “Bayview Country Art Club“. It was touch and go whether it would happen because of the fires but Jenny Keck who has run the club for 10 years was awesome and brought the evening together. I joined the Melbourne State Library protest and busked there too.

While in Melbourne I decided to use my time protesting as often as possible on the Bell Highway outside the Mantra Bell Hotel where they are keeping 70 refugees who were medivaced from Manus and Nauru. I positioned myself on the highway at the traffic lights and in view of the men in the hotel rooms. I also visited refugees everyday, I did 2 visits each day with 2 of the guys and some days just one. It was great to catch up again but very sad and disappointing to see them stuck in detention still.

Photo taken by Moz in hotel room

It is so wrong that they are still being detained after almost 7 years. Many of them are not receiving adequate medical care and they are withdrawing and loosing hope again. On one of the evenings I was asked to go and join a flash mob to play music outside the hotel. A bunch of musicians and singers rolled up at 7pm and we went to the carpark and positioned ourselves so that all the refugees could see us through the windows. We sang and played music for an hour.

Melbourne Immigration Transfer Accommodation

While in Melbourne I went to visit 3 Sudanese refugees who had not had any visitors yet. I organised the visit just like any other online. It’s a ridiculous process. When I got there I went through the strict security procedures and when they did the swab for chemical substances I tested positive. I couldn’t believe it….they tested me a gain and it came up positive again. It was so frustrating and since then I have heard it happens all the time.  I argued with the SERCO boss but he would not allow a contact visit. I had to do a non contact visit which was so disappointing. Here is a link to the video I did on Facebook at the end of the visit. I don’t know how I managed to do it because they are very strict about using devices to record what is going on there. https://www.facebook.com/dawnindenmark/videos/vb.630081916/10157108957651917/?type=2&video_source=user_video_tab
https://www.facebook.com/dawnindenmark/videos/vb.630081916/10157202669621917/?type=2&video_source=user_video_tab

There is so much that I would love to write but just don’t have the time. I met many amazing people and had lots of interactions some positive some negative but overall I believe it was a very productive time. I would do it all again if I had the money. I absolutely love being on the road and love meeting and talking to people and playing music everywhere I go.

On my way home I played at the Marion Hotel in Adelaide and once again I got to talk about refugees and dedicate songs to them.  

I took my trek back across the Nullabor and stayed at different spots on the way home and decided to spend 4 days in Esperance for a bit of a rest. I also had a gig at Taylors Street Quarters Cafe and Restaurant which I was pretty exited about. I took the opportunity to do a busking protest in the centre of Esperance and surprisingly I got a lot of support. I posted on Facebook and tagged Taylors to let people know that I was looking forward to playing there that night. Mousey is the lovely guy who organised the gig in Esperance.  Just before I arrived he said the boss of Taylors asked that I not get “political” to which I responded of course I never get involved in politics. The boss was very respectful in the way he approached it and said he had full respect for what I was doing. However, a part of me couldn’t help feeling a bit concerned that there are so many people in fear of doing the right thing. I don’t believe that what I am doing is political, all that I talk and sing about is in the name of HUMAN RIGHTS and nothing more.  

State Library Melbourne

Just one more photo for the record. While in Melbourne I joined the Friday vigil at the State Library. If you are in Melbourne you can join them every Friday at 5pm and show the refugees that you are with them.

It’s a wrap – 2020 awaits!

Canberra

It’s been an incredible year and if I sit down for 5 mins to recount what I have done in 2019 I might feel like I need to go into hiding for a year.  So I’m gonna just recap on my trip to Canberra recently where I played at a “Walk for Refugees” concert. It was great 5 days in Canberra and I actually got to go to Parliament House for the first time ever which was awesome. The the concert I played alongside two great female artists Dorothy Jane Gosper and Mileyna Cifali and thanks to Evita story for taking these photos. She also gave us an insight into her exquisite story telling.  I really surprised myself because I never imagined that I would enjoy Canberra…I had always been told that it was a very boring non eventful place filled with politicians and government employees. I actually really liked the city and went to some to of the best pubs I have ever visited in Australia, one being the Old Canberra Inn and another one that the name I can’t remember but it was in Lyneham and when it opened in the 70s it was a womens only bar! Awesome!!!

A Little Bit of Filming

Something else that I got up to in 2019 was a little bit of filming. Rob Castiglione is an in incredible film maker and he asked me if he could make a short documentary about me and my art and it’s involvement in the Refugee advocacy that I have been engaged in. Of course I said yes, he had already produced one with my friend Ruth Halbert (Textile Artist) and he wanted to do another one with Renee Pettitt Schipp (Author and Poet). All three of us have produced art that has become a voice for the refugees detained offshore on Christmas Island, Manus and Nauru.

Here is the video with my story:

Busking across the Nullabor 

I will be busking from Denmark WA to Melbourne to raise awareness about refugees being held offshore and onshore. So I will be taking my songs, signs and car and talking to as many people as I can about the issue.  In the midst of bush fires burning out of control across Australia right now I have even questioned my need to do this. However, I am an artist and it is my job is to push the edges and ask the difficult questions. I believe that the very character of our government has been crystal clear in the way they have treated refugees and it was only a matter of time before people here in Australia would also be affected by their lack compassion and leadership. As we watch Australia burn, people killed, animals dying, ecosystems decimated, home destroyed our government and mainly our Prime Minster continues to lie and deceive us. For them it is about ownership and power and not about the people. I never thought I would hear myself say this but I don’t think the government of Australia gives a shit about the people and quite frankly I think they have totally lost the plot.😔

I am fortunate that I can play my songs and create a safe space for people to feel something. I won’t be celebrating the New Year in my usual style.

I WILL NOT BE SILENCED
BUT I WILL LIGHT A CANDLE AND SIT WITH SILENCE.

2020 AWAITS

 

Post Tour then WAM nominee!

It’s been a crazy few months. My “Manus Music Talks” events went unbelievably well and I think the worst thing that happened was leaving my purse at a servo and finding out the next day 2 hrs down the road, then sleeping in a caravan with giant spiders….. apart from that it was all good. lol…. I started in Kuranda QLD and drove down the coast stopping at Cairns, Townsville, Rockhampton, Yeppoon, MacKay, Cooran, Brisbane, Ballina, Port McQuarie, Newcastle, Gosford and Sydney. I grabbed a car in Cairns and did approx 3,000 kms which was incredible and I never imagined that I would get through it all in the 4 weeks I had. I met the most amazing people and they were so generous in the way they took on the job of organising the events and giving me a room for the night and sometimes 2 nights. Cairns for Refugees were the first group to host me and the Uniting Church in Kuranda.

My next stop was the Townsville Cultural Fest where I released my new EP “Can’t Let Go”. It was an incredible weekend and I met so many amazing people and it was wonderful to catch up with Farvardin again who is the person doing all the behind the scenes work of this great event.  Something I noticed as I drove down the coast was how dry it was, very dry and it surprised me because even though I knew there was a drought in Queensland I didn’t think it be that bad and that it would stretch the coast too.

The Greens Keppel

My next stop was Rockhampton and Yeppoon where I did performances for The North Rockhampton Uniting Church group and the Greens Keppel.  There are many many people doing a huge amount of work behind the scenes when it comes to the refugees in offshore and onshore detention and I can’t believe that between us all that we haven’t managed to find a way to end this disgusting policy. People should never be detained for no crime and especially for 7 years. 

Ballina for Refugees

Ballina for Refugees, Rik and me

My next stop was Cooran and then Ballina where I did a performance for Ballina Region for Refugees and a small refugee group in Cooran. I played songs from my previous album and my recently released EP. The most important one was a song called “In My Name” which I wrote last year. I wrote it because I thought change was coming and I imagined that the election would bring change…..HOW WRONG I WAS :O(  This song is about acknowledging that people are coming together and that change is coming so I play this near to the end of the performance and get everyone to sing the chorus with me…it’s the best feeling when everyone joins me. :o)

The photos above are of my gig at the Ballina Region for Refugees they were amazing and it was lovely to stay with Rik and Lisa Dillon.

My next stop was Brisbane where I did one in Hawkesbury with the Redland for Refugees and once again I was hosted by a lovely couple and a great venue was organised. When I organised this tour I really had no idea how it would all go and I didn’t know if it would have the desired outcome. My goal was to tell the story of how I got involved and how I had used my art (music and songs) to bring awareness to the issue and spread the word. I wanted to show everyone that they too have a voice and that we are in a position of power. I write folk songs and in the true traditional sense folk music is about activism and I love that part of it and I love having a purpose for my songs that is more than entertainment alone.  I had an incredible response from every single performance and it went way beyond my expectations.

Qassim and me

While in Brisbane I spent some time visiting the refugees that I had helped to get to Austraia via the Medivac Bill. They were all incredibly sick but it was so nice to see them smile and to spend a bit of time with them. Here is Qassim from Iraq, he spent 6 years on Manus and was tortured by ISIS. He had 11 bones in his body broken. He was incredibly sick when I saw him on Manus and here he is now looking so much better. I wrote “We Live and We Die” with another refugee called Kazem after visiting Qassim in the Lorengau hospital on Manus. I will be doing a professional studio recording of this song at the end of November. He is still in detention here in Australia and who knows how long the government will keep them there.

After Brisbane I went down to Port Macquarie then Newcastle and then Gosford. The Port Macquarie was with the Mid North West Refugee Group and Newcastle was organised by Niko at the Hunter Asylum Seekers group. Once again the events were organised beautifully and I was hosted by so many wonderful people all working really hard behind the scenes. My next stop was Sydney where I did my final two performances, one with the Hawkesbury Rural Australian for Refugees group and the other was actually at a music venue which was a bit novel for this tour… lol…… It was lovely to meet Geoff and Sue who hosted the Hawkesbury event and I really don’t want to miss anyone out because I was so well looked after by so many lovely people. The venue in Crows Nest was called Street Market Asian Tapas Bar and Restaurant and I had a lovely night there too. I was also very happy to be at the tail end of my tour. I was exhausted and really enjoyed my last few days with my very good friend in Sydney.

WAM Nomination

I had the shock of my life a week or so ago when I found out that I had been nominated for the category of “Best Regional Act” for WAM (West Australian Music). I have worked really hard in my music career and I had no idea how hard it actually was when I first started. I never really intended to take it this far but I just love it. Each time I say to myself well that’s it now I’ve done more than I could possibly have imagined, it’s time to get back into normal life but I can’t do that because I have learned in the last 8 years that this is normal life for me….the roller coaster of writing songs, performing, recording and touring. I love it wouldn’t change it for the world.

I received an invitation to the WAM Awards evening for October 31st so I am really looking forward to that. It says leave your ripped jeans at home so it looks like I might have to dress up a bit. :O)

Perth Royal Show

So far October has been extra busy with a gig at the Perth Royal Show and then I have a house concert in Northam for friend and Radio Presenter Allen Tonks. His partner Lisa is celebrating her 50th Birthday. Then I will be going up to Perth for the awards night. Well that’s it from me folks and I look forward to my next update soon.

 

 

Townsville Festival & Manus, Music Talk’s

Townsville Festival

I’ve just finished my last gig at the Albany Boatshed Markets before I head off over east for 4 weeks. I haven’t done a 3 hr gig for a while so it was quite an achievement to get through so early on a Sunday morning … lol.

It’s that time of year again and I am very excited to have been invited to the 25th Townsville Cultural Fest which starts on Friday 16th August.

I will be playing on three different occasions on the “Music Stage” and not only that but Xavier Rudd is going to be there and Baker Boy! and many other great artists which is very exciting!!!. This is an all inclusive festival and gender equity is a priority for Farvardin Daliri the Director and founder of the event 25 years ago.

The other very exciting news is that I will be releasing my new EP “Can’t Let Go” at the festival. I will have the hard copies in my hands very soon. They can also be ordered from Bandcamp as a digital download or a hard copy.

Manus, Music Talk’s Tour

The people who know me would be very aware of my activism with regards to the refugees being held in offshore detention.  My song writing has merged more and more with my connection with the refugees and their plight. The recent election brought a considerable amount of despair to the refugees on Manus and Nauru because if Labor won there was hope.  I am not really politically aligned but I do care about people and the planet. Labor was going to accept the New Zealand deal and Labor supported the Medivac Bill. 

So after a week on floor crying I felt the need to get back on the road to do what I love that is playing music and touring from Cairns down to Sydney. I will do “Music talks” at as many towns as possible, so far I have 8 bookings. I will be playing songs that I have written, and dedicated to the refugees for the past 2 years and also a song that I wrote with one of the musicians on Manus. Please check out “”Doco Screenings & Music Talks” link on my main page.

I have found music to be a great platform to engage with people and it feels soooooo good to have a purpose for my art.  I guess throughout history it’s been the artists that have forced change and I really do believe we are at a point in history where logic, reason and policies will not cut it anymore. I want to weave the story of offshore detention and onshore detention with my songs and offer a QandA at the end. The idea is to encourage people to find creative ways to force change and who knows what could happen.

 

Studio Recording and Airpla

Thanks to Rob Castiglioni and Tony King I now have a new studio recording of one of my new tracks “In My Name”. We did it in my music room right here in Denmark WA and it was a lot of fun.

I’ve also had the surprise of receiving my AMRAP Airit report only to find out that I have been getting a fair bit of airplay on community radio across Australia. So I want thank all those radio presenters who have ordered my tracks and given them a spin on air. They include Libby Carmody from Tjuma Pulka Media Aboriginal Corp , Peter from The Cleaner show at Seymour FM, Alan Edwards from the Musical Australiania show at  OKR FM, Junita from Outback Junita’s Aussie Playlist at ROX FM and Wendy from Noosa FM Wendy’s Words at Play show, The Dylersloop show at Nambucca Valley Radio, Disc Drive show at Artsound FM , Sally’s Environmix at Alex FM, then Carmen Moran at Highland FM Sunday Breakfast show, The Folk Show with Julie and David at Radio Adelaide and I’m sure I’ve missed a few out but I will add them next time.

 

Keeping it cosy this winter

So it’s almost winter and I can’t believe that 2 months have just passed me! However, I certainly have enjoyed the break and I’ve actually had time to relax and do nothing somedays….which is always something or course.

I have still done a few of my usual gigs and my next performance is at the Denmark Festival then I will be playing at the Albany Boatshed Markets on Sunday July 7th and then it’s Townsville Festival again but I will talk more about that in my next update.

Denmark Festival is coming soon 31st May – 3 June 2019. This is when the whole of Denmark comes alive with music from all it’s venues.

It’s a great honour to be selected for the Denmark Festival of Voice and I always look forward to this weekend because I can throw my guitar over my shoulder and walk down the road to the venue.

There will be people from all across the world and Australia and the past few years have cemented this festival on the map of Australia. I will be playing on Saturday at 2pm and Sunday at 12 noon at Freehand Natural Wine. I will be facilitating a skype talk with refugee and award winning journalist and writer Behrouz Boochani at 12 noon too. Behrouz is still being detained on Manus Island with approx 500 other men in the most in humane conditions under the Australian government. It’s disgusting and I can’t believe they have been there almost 6 years.

It’s been quite a gruelling couple of months after my trip to Manus Island and getting deported didn’t help. I am still embroiled in this story as it continues to unfold and it will be a big part of my life until all of the refugees are free. You may ask me why get so involved and why put this pressure on yourself? For that I have no answer except for, ‘it is just something I have to do’ just like when I was extremely concerned about the environment and destruction of our planet for so many years in my teenage years and on through my 20s, 30s and 40s.

Although back then my work in activism was separate and on it’s own whereas now my music overlaps with my concerns for human rights, social justice and the planet we are all destroying at a rapid pace. So in effect the work is never done but I get a huge amount of satisfaction knowing that my art can participate in the solution to all these problems.

I do have a few other things happening behind the scenes and one of those is a small documentary in collaboration with 3 other artists; a poet (Renee Schipp), a textile artist (Ruth Halbert) and a film maker. Rob Castiglioni is the film maker and he has asked the three of us if he could make a short documentary about each of us and show how our lives and our art practice have been impacted by our work in the area of offshore detention.

Of course I jumped at the chance, any opportunity to be in front of a camera or microphone …… lol …..We have done a lot of filming and in the process we also made a music video for one of the songs that I wrote on Manus. I collaborated with one of the refugees there Kazem Kazemi who is a heavy metal fan and an amazing guitarist and musician for that matter. He wrote the melody and I wrote the words so we put the two together and came up with the song below. It’s called “We live and we die”. I wrote these words at 3am in the morning while on Manus. I had been visiting some very sick men at the local hospital in Lorengau which barely has the facilities to take care of the local population let alone an extra 600 refugees. The two men I saw were very sick and were both on hunger strike and had lost the will to live. I sang a few songs to them and one of the guys actually spoke on the 2nd and 3rd visit (he was probably sick of the singing lol) but he did sit up and we had lovely chat. His name is Qassim and he is still there now in the camp languishing and has no idea how much longer it will go on for.

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