Christine Anu believes in making your own breaks.
From her early years in the Torres Strait Islands where she says domestic violence was rife, opportunities for Indigenous women limited and the bare necessities in short supply, she rose to become one of Australia’s most successful Indigenous female performers.
Anu herself baulks at the word “successful” but believes her journey has been possible because she’s never put limits on what she can do.
“I never have,” she told NIT this week. “When you hit a road block, just try something different.
“Like anybody, sometimes it’s a bit of a moment where you can stall a bit, and we all do, and it kind of affects you like ‘Oh now what?’, but you just keep going forward because it’s about trying to achieve wins.
“It’s about trying to not let obstacles get in the way. Because life is hard in general and career is a part of it and you know there are going to be ups and downs but you don’t let that stall you or put you off your path.
“It’s about saying ‘Well, today — and we’re all human — I don’t feel like doing it today’, but I guess if you have passion and a lot of desire to do what you’re doing, it’s the one thing that motivates you and drives you forward.
“I think I’ve ticked a lot of boxes, but I think that next big thing is still around the corner.”
Anu, 48, achieved icon status in Australian music in 1995 with her hit ‘Island Home’, the second single from her debut studio album Stylin’ Up. It won Song of the Year at that year’s Australasian Performing Right Association Awards and was listed in APRA’s Top 30 Australian songs of all time in 2001.
Last year ‘Island Home’ was added to the National Film and Sound Archive’s Sounds of Australia Registry.
And there have been many other career highs too the singer and actress – Anu performed to billions of global viewers at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, has appeared in feature films such as Moulin Rouge and The Matrix Reloaded and she currently hosts a show on ABC radio.
Anu says she was lucky to have good rolemodels in her mother and other family members when she was growing up.
“The women in my family were definitely my rolemodels,” she says.
“For instance my aunty with the stories that she told – she was a great storyteller. I think my personal storytelling is modelled on her, even though my mum is a great storyteller as well.”
Now a mother herself – to son Kuiam, 21, and daughter Zipporah, 14 – Anu believes people have to take responsibility for themselves regardless of their background.
“At the end of the day aren’t we all making our own choices and decisions?” she says.
“I don’t think we can blame our rolemodels for the statistics and things like that.
“I think personally I have had, and do have, amazing rolemodels in my life, but at the end of the day I’m making my own choices based on what’s appropriate for me at that time.
“You can have the best role models in the world, but it comes down to decisions that you need to make because of a pure need to survive, and that’s based on my own personal life.
“I’m leading a completely different life to anyone in my family. We’ve all got very different lives from each other. I’m the only one who has the kind of career I do and no-one in my family has had to make the kinds of decisions I have, yet we’ve all had the same rolemodels.
“It comes down to environment and circumstance.”
By Wendy Caccetta
- Christine Anu will take the stage at the National Film and Sound Archive in Canberra for an evening of music, memories and conversation on June 2 as part of National Reconciliation Week. Tickets are $35 and available online.