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Byron Shire
May 18, 2021

Indigenous talent comes out for NAIDOC

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Blackboi at the Con

Story & photo Melissa Hargraves

The Northern Rivers Conservatorium (CON) joined in the spirit of this year’s NAIDOC Week by hosting an all-indigenous line up in its ‘cushion CONcert’ last Saturday.

Executive Director of the CON Anita Bellman told Echonetdaily that although indigenous performers have featured previously, Saturday’s event – which included Blackboi, Craig Bolt, Supafresh and Guraman (previously Mixed Ages) – was focused on NAIDOC celebrations.

‘The arts have the ability to transcend and cut through social barriers and barriers of race and social economic structures,’ Ms Bellman said.

‘For everyone, learning and performing music is another avenue for you to feel good about yourself. It also builds communities and relationships. Communities sharing music binds them and forms bonds that can then spill out into other areas of life.

‘I am especially pleased as Tom Avery (Blackboi) and Sarah Bennett of Supafresh previously studied here at the CON,’ Ms Bellman said.

Blackboi has featured regularly in NAIDOC celebrations and spoke to Echonetdaily about the lack of funding surrounding such events.

‘NAIDOC celebrations happen once a year and they don’t have much of a budget. For instance, we have had artists performing at one particular event over the past three years and each year it’s the same fee, which is really low,’ Blackboi said.

‘Meanwhile, busking permits and rates are being raised. For some reason entertainers are missing out. I hope to raise awareness about this and maybe attract sponsorship for future events.’

The theme of NAIDOC this year is the acknowledgement of the vision of the Yirrkala bark petitions submitted to parliament in 1963. Blackboi honours their contribution but discussed the irony of Indigenous cultures learning to do things the ‘white’ way.

‘Even when I was young, I would wonder how these people can even spell the word they have been named, ie Bundjalung, Kamilaroi etc when we never had letters. Someone has written it down saying it sounds like this, this is how it should be spelt!’

Blackboi will be part of upcoming NAIDOC events hosted by Southern Cross University (SCU) at both Lismore (17 July) and Tweed Heads (18 July) campuses.

‘We are putting together a big band with three horns, two drummers, a percussion section, keys and amazing female backup vocalists,’ Blackboi said.

The CONcerts are partnered with Lismore City Council, they have been running since late 2012 and are on the first Saturday of each month.

Other NAIDOC (National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee) Week celebrations in Lismore and surrounds include a March and Flag raising ceremony in Lismore on Monday (today) at 10am; NAIDOC Workers Dinner at Quattro, Alstonville, on Wednesday at 6.30pm; NAIDOC Sports and Fun Day at Kadina Park, Goonellabah, on Thursday, 10am-2pm; Lismore Produce Markets in Magellan Street featuring Bill Smith on Thursday at 5pm; and Miss NAIDOC at Lismore Workers Club on Friday at 6.30pm.

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