Since 2014, indigenous singer-songwriter Shellie Morris has been travelling annually to Yarrabah, a remote community in north Queensland, to live as an artist-in-residence and deliver a week-long series of workshops with school students. The week culminates in a performance at Yarrabah Band Festival, a Queensland Music Festival event, where the students share the stage with local bands and big-name artists.
“It’s about the children having lots of fun making music, making songs on the ground about their stories and their country, and building up their self esteem and confidence for performance,” says Ms Morris. “One trip isn’t enough. You can’t just go in cold to any remote community … it’s important to build up a relationship, to build up trust.”
This year, Ms Morris will be joined by KLP, a Sydney-based DJ, producer and singer, and host of triple j’s House Party. The duo will work with a group of indigenous high school students, guiding them to write, record and perform songs in their own language. At Yarrabah Band Festival 2017, the students will share a bill with Troy Cassar-Daley, Sara Storer and James Morrison, as well as Shellie Morris and KLP.
Katie Noonan, director of the Queensland Music Festival, says, “We’re thrilled that Shellie is coming back. She’s amazing at celebrating community, culture and language—at using the transformative power of music to help empower young indigenous people to tell their stories. She’s also an amazing singer-songwriter in her own right.
“There’s a huge youth community in Yarrabah … So, we thought it’d be great to get KLP to come in and work as well. She’s an amazing young producer. It’ll be an interesting meeting of two worlds.”
Jason Evert, principal at Yarrabah State School, adds that the program gives students opportunities to engage with the performing arts, meet role models and perform publicly—opportunities that are not readily presented in remote areas. “It’s great for the community to have an event where everyone can perform, alongside renowned artists,” he says. “It’s a really positive experience.”