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Laneway Festival's Yiriman Project pumps cultural beats through Indigenous youth

David Prestipino -

Renowned for its annual showcase of alternative music's best new acts and established talent, the national St Jerome's Laneway Festival has long been a platform for emerging Indigenous artists to expand their fan base across Australia.

Young rapper JK-47 (real name Jacob Paulson), a Minjungbal/Gudjinburra man of Bundjalung Country near Tweed Heads, is one such artist, currently electrifying audiences at his Laneway debut, featuring tracks from sophomore album Revision For Regrowth, the highly-anticipated follow-up to his impressive and influential 2020 debut Made For This.

Behind the scenes, Laneway is also connecting Indigenous youths across the Kimberley in Western Australia with their traditional culture and country via its Yiriman Project, one of the long-running festival's many social and community initiatives.

Conceived by three Traditional Elders in the region, Laneway audiences have raised more than $250,000 since 2011 for the Yiriman Project, which takes Kimberley youths "back to Country", accompanied by Elders who help them reconnect with their culture and instil a sense of identity.

The trio of local Elders realised young people in communities needed separation from negative influences, and the guidance of older generations to help reconnect with their culture in remote and culturally-significant places.

The cultural healing aspect of Laneway's Yiriman program was recognised by Reconciliation Australia, awarded the 2012 Indigenous Governance Award (for outstanding examples of Indigenous governance in a non-incorporated initiative or project).

Karajarri Elder Nyapartu Hopiga said his brother Johnnie Watson and other Fitzroy Valley elders developed the Yiriman project to protect local youth communities.

"We came up with this little program to protect and look after kids. And when they was looking after kids they was looking after old people at the same time, and looking at how to look after the country. We are still going with it," he said.

Nyikina man William Watson said Yiriman helped Indigenous people learn about their roots establish new identities.

"When you on country, you walk with a spring in your step, you walk with your head high, you not afraid of anything," he said.

"In order to find yourself you have to get lost. So best place to get lost is country."

While JK-47 won't appear at the Perth leg of Laneway, WA fans can hear the powerul and soulful rapper at Perth Festival's annual Boorloo Block Party this month.

2024 St Jerome's Laneway Festival dates

Brisbane: Feb 3 – Brisbane Showgrounds

Sydney: Feb 4 – Sydney Showground

Auckland: Feb 6 – Western Springs

Adelaide: Feb 9 – Bonython Park

Melbourne: Feb 10 – The Park, Flemington

Perth: Feb 11 – Wellington Square

More details on remaining shows can be found here.

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