Griffith University is connecting its world class Queensland Conservatorium talent with regional Australia and First Peoples communities.
It’s not every day that a group of music students get invited to travel out to the Central Australian desert to collaborate with legendary Aboriginal musicians and Elders.
Since 2009 a group of Griffith University staff and students, led by Professor Brydie-Leigh Bartleet, have made the 2,500km trip to collaborate with local Aboriginal musicians and community artists at Winanjjikari Music Centre and Barkly Regional Arts.
It’s an immersive project, bringing together students and Warumungu and Warlpiri musicians for a cross-cultural learning and performing experience. According to Professor Bartleet, director of the Queensland Conservatorium Research Centre, these trips allow for both ways of learning and rich cultural exchanges between students and local artists.
“Each year the students have been able to collaborate with the local musicians and ultimately develop wonderful relationships with each of the artists they work with. It has been a rich exchange through songs, jamming and performing together.”
Students from Griffith University, with local students, work on sound recording projects, mixing, camera work for live broadcasts, lighting and stage set-ups, workshops in the local schools, painted backdrops and cataloging paintings and artworks.
They also attend cross-cultural classes and act as roadies.
The culmination of the trip has seen students and local musicians perform under the stars at a special jam night as part of the Desert Harmony Festival, for well over 600 people.
“While some educators have brought Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists into creative arts classrooms, other times the inclusion of such content has been tokenistic and abstract,” Professor Bartleet says.
“This arts-based service learning project aims to demonstrate how collaborative partnerships between students and Aboriginal communities can create curriculum content in a culturally appropriate way.”
This project has inspired a suite of mobility programs at the Queensland Conservatorium that focus on building collaborative partnerships with musicians in Cambodia, China and India.
It has also led to a current Australia Research Council Linkage project that Griffith is leading, examining innovative ways to sustain the arts and cultural sector in remote Australia.
Griffith University has a range of projects promoting social change, sustainability and community development.
The University focuses on realising these projects in close collaboration with First Peoples of Australia. You can get involved in a range of initiatives across departments.