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Poems and Songs that Remember Yugambeh Aboriginal Leaders and Languages (Poster - presented at the Gold Coast Health and Medical Research Conference, 2013)
The Yugambeh Museum at Beenleigh provides examples of programs for keeping culture strong and Caring for Country, such as the Drumley Walk -- which was initiated by Billy Drumley's descendants and the Yugambeh language group. This article explores newly composed songs and poems that are associated with the Walk.

The Drumley Walk is an annual three-day walking pilgrimage from Beaudesert, south of Brisbane, to Southport on the Gold Coast. The 65 kilometre journey follows the footsteps of Beaudesert Aboriginal identity Billy Drumley. In the early 1900s he trekked through farmland and bush to visit his sister Jenny Graham who lived at Southport with her many children and grandchildren. Rory O'Connor, the Walk Director states the aim of the Drumley Walk is "to honour Aboriginal Elders of yesteryear, for their resilience and courage to keep living on their traditional lands." the event which is run by Drumley's descendnats also remembers other local leaders whose stories form an integral part of today's community of people associated with the Yugambeh language region.

The purpose of the poster is to reflect on the experience as a walker and volunteer on the Drumley Walk from 2009 to 2011 and features of the songs and poems that support health promotion. The Walk is continually evolving so ethnographic writing and performance of newly composed song and dance is encouraged as part of the walker's creative activities. The songs and poems created for the walk are intended to promote resilience in the face of societal, economic, political and enivronmental change.

The discussion about the poster highlighted how songs and poems can safeguard remnants of traditional Yugambeh language and reveal a continuous transmission of 'Caring for Country' values through to the present day.

Analysis of the Poems and Songs:
The songs and poems created for the Walk are connected with the ideas of local people and promote environmental awareness, and 'Caring for Country' values.

Dancing on the Breeze: The Ballad of Billy Drumley, lyrics composed by Gary Williams, recounts the memories of Billy Drumley's life that have been passed down through his descendant's oral histories. "A master of the broadaxe, Drumley carved the beams with skill, of the churches and the houses 'round the town.. He was a boxer, runner, cricketer of renown...He'd catch buneen - echidna for the kids." The chorus connects with the experience of walking together with friends, sensing the richness of the environment and being aware of the spirituality of the Elders past and present:

Yanbelilla - going walking,
Ngauraien - plenty walking,
Jimbelung - friends together, walking through the trees.
Can you see it, can you hear it,
Can you sense it, can you feel it,
Bullogahn - Billy Drumley's spirit, dancing on the breeze.

The songs are effective in using remnants of Yugambeh language so othey are safeguarded and handed on from one generation to the next.

References: Best, Ysola, and Alex Barlow (1997). Kombumerri: Saltwater People. Aboriginal Peoples. Port Melbourne: Heinemann Library, Reed Educational & Professional Publishing.

Best, Ysola, Candace Kruger & Patricia O'Connor (2005). Yugambeh Talga: Music traditions of the Yugambeh People. Southport, Queensland: Keeaira Press.


There are long associations between this land, Australia, and spirituality. Indigenous people tell creation stories about the Dreamtime in which land formations came about. They are closely connected to plants, animals and places of spiritual significance. 

In 1606, Quiros declared, "Let the heavens, the earth,...and all those here present witness that I, Captain Pedro Fernandez de Quiros... in the name of Jesus Christ... whereon He gave His life for the ransom and remedy of the human race... on this Day of Pentecost, 14 May, 1606... I, take possession of all this part of the South as far as the pole in the name of Jesus... Which from now on shall be called the Southern land of the Holy Ghost (La Austrialia del Espiritu Santo)... and this always and forever... to the end that to all natives, in all the said lands, the holy, sacred evangel may be preached zealously and openly." Quiros actually landed on a New Hebridian Island, but thought he was on the great southern land mass of Tierra Austrialia. 

The spiritual connections with the land have been explored through scholarly publications, such as Fiona Richards' The Soundscapes of Australia: Music Place and Spirituality (2007), and David Tacey's The Edge of the Sacred: Transformation in Australia (1995).  

Currently there are attempts to safeguard Australian music heritage and culture. Alan Marett has been instrumental in setting up projects with Indigenous people to help safeguard the last remaining traditional Indigenous music and culture. He has written detailed accounts of particular song genres from the Northern Territory, such as Songs, Dreamings and Ghosts: The Wangga of Northern Australia (2005). 

Safeguarding music heritage and culture can have important repercussions for people's health and well-being, because there are close relationships between people's spirituality and music expression. It has been widely suggested that the health and well-being of Indigenous people in Australia has been compromised by government policy that restricted people's freedom of music and cultural expression. The health and well-being of Indigenous people is considered a National health priority. Self-management of health, especially social health is of high importance to Indigenous Health Services in Australia and this can be progressed through various Music Health services such as community music and safeguarding music traditions. 

It is recognised that ethnomusicologists, cultural advisers, therapists, counsellors and educators are vital to the partnership with communities, to safeguard tangible and intangible music heritage and culture. An inter-disciplinary approach is required when establishing partnerships with communities for community music, cultural heritage management, and socio-ecological health promotion programs.

U-tube video: We are Australian


Music heritage and culture that is transmitted through performance and oral traditions, has an intangible aspect that can be lost if music traditions are not passed from one generation to another. The importance of this heritage has been recognised by The International Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (UNESCO, 2003) that came into force in some countries in 2006. The convention has not yet been signed by America, Australia, and some other countries. There is further discussion in Toshiuki Kono's Intangible Cultural Heritage and Intellectual Property: Communities, Cultural Diversity and Sustainable Development (2009).

The diversity of cultural traditions is supported by
The Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (UNESCO, 2005) which was ratified by the Australian government in 2009. Both of these UNESCO conventions can inform reasoning about how to best safeguard music heritage and culture. Specific place-based research is required in Australia, and guidelines are currently coming together from many different sources that have application to safeguarding the tangible and intangible aspects of people's music heritage and culture. The Australian Burra Charter and World Heritage Legislation apply to conserving places of cultural significance, and it is recognised that music traditions have strong associations with particular places -- especially in relation to traditional Indigenous culture.
The concept of intervening to support and enable communities to actively engage with their music heritage and culture is recent, so the terminology is still in flux between disciplines who share this work. The Cultural Ministers Council developed The Indigenous Contemporary Music Action Plan (2008) that outlines principles, goals and actions to take Indigenous music forward (media release).

Localised participatory action research has been carried out with communities, such as documented in
The Purga Music Story (Kirkwood, 2005), and Turn of the Century: The Ipswich Thistle Pipe Band 1909-2009 (Kirkwood and Ipswich Thistle Pipe Band, 2009). Both of these projects involved a community of discovery approach to reflect on music history and to develop proactive music action plans with communities. Strategic planning and development of a contemporary music action plan for rural Ipswich was carried out by Sandra Kirkwood in 2006. The publications are listed on the Music Australia website of the National Library, and further information is available from the Purga Music Museum in Ipswich(http://www.freewebs.com/purgamusic/index.htm) and Ipswich Thistle Pipe Band website (www.ipswichthistle.com). Localised studies have also been carried out by Philip Hayward in Darwin (2006a), and Norfolk and Pitcairn Islands (2006b).
The foundation of the "Creative Community of Discovery" approach used in Purga Music at Ipswich, is based on the belief that people have the right to participate in activities and occupations that are relevant to their heritage and culture. "Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits" (Article 27, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, United Nations, 1948). Kronenberg et al. (2005) use the term 'occupational apartheid' to describe circumstances in which people are denied opportunities to engage in occupations of their choice due to discriminatory policy or social, political and physical environmental conditions. Involving people and helping them to engage with their music heritage and culture promotes social inclusion and respect for the cultural diversity of Australian society. Cultural engagement refers to people's active involvement in coming to understand and shape their own culture.

The concept of community implies that people may relate to others as they strive to make sense of their heritage and culture. 'Community' is understood as classes, groups or social milieus; "a group of people within a society with a shared ethnic or culutral background especially within a larger society" (Moore, 2006). Community development approaches are central to addressing music cultural heritage management.

See "Creative Communities: What Does it Mean?" Powerpoint presentation on

Hayward, P. (2006a). From the top: Local difference and issues of heritage identity in the formulation of music policy for Darwin. Perfect Beat, 8(1), 50-68.

Hayward, P. (2006b). Bounty chords: Music, dance and cultural heritage on Norfolk and Pitcairn Islands. Eastleigh: John Libbey.

Kono, T (Ed.) (2009) Intangible Cultural Heritage and Intellectual Property: Communities, Cultural Diversity and Sustainable Development. Antwerp: Intersentia.

Kronenberg F., Algado, & N. Pollard (Eds.) (2005). Occupational therapy without borders: Learning from the spirit of survivors. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone.

Moore, A. (Ed.). (2006). Macquarie Australian national dictionary. Sydney: Susan Butler, University of Sydney.

Richards, F. (2007). The soundscapes of Australia: Music place and spirituality. Burlington: Ashgate.

Tacey, D. (1995). The Edge of the Sacred: Transformation in Australia. North Blackburn, Victoria: HarperCollins.


Article written by Sandra Kirkwood, 12 November, 2008; updated 16 November, 2016.
© Sandra Kirkwood, 2008



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