A call to arms from Wilcannia’s Barkindji Soldiers

Wilcannia's Barkindji soldiers present a powerful mantra for country.

A new anthem from deep within the throbbing heart of western NSW is calling Australians to action.

The song Heartbeat, written by a group of Indigenous artists known as the Barkindji Soldiers from Wilcannia, NSWis a mantra for country, culture, connection and the Darling River.

Born from Desert Pea Media’s storytelling program, the song advocates for positive change and environmental stability.

The program was funded by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and NSW Health Aboriginal Environmental Health and is directed by charity Desert Pea Media (DPM).

It’s part of a continuing collaboration that’s seen the promotion of health messages and ‘Caring for Country’ programs in regional and remote Indigenous communities.

Desert Pea Media CEO/Creative Director, Toby Finlayson said the community was very quick to identify issues involving environment and sustainability.

“The EPA ‘Caring for Country’ projects are community-driven, and in this case addressing issues with the local rubbish dump. There is a need to introduce recycling systems, better rubbish disposal system and community awareness. The overriding environmental issue in Wilcannia however, is the very very sick Darling River,” he said.

“The work for river is ‘Barka’, and the people of Wilcannia are ‘Barkindji’. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the importance and deep connection between First Nations people of the area and the Darling River. There is a great deal of anger and frustration in the community, and rightfully so.”

Mr Finlayson said that allowing young people’s views on these issues is incredibly important.

“Young people are acutely aware of their surroundings and the issues that face their community. This song is a vital story for the Wilcannia people. It is a very dire environmental situation in the area, and this song is a ‘call to arms’, a plea to all Australians to speak up, and be a part of lobbying government to commit to environmental investment, and to support the Barkindji people, their spirituality and their communities.”

The project spans five days and is an intensive collaborative storytelling experience. Elders, Indigenous community members, young people and local services are invited to start conversations about issues facing the community.

“In simple terms, this means looking objectively at community issues, and approaching them with a solutions-based lens. How do we create a better system for our community, culture and country? On day two we turn that yarn into song lyrics, co-written by community, young people and DPM staff. On day three we record the song in the mobile DPM studio, and on days four and five we shoot a music video,” Mr Finlayson said.

DPM Guest Producer Carlo Santone (Blue King Brown/Nattali Rize) also emphasised the importance of the program.

“The importance of these works go well beyond the surface. Music can be a healer and life changer. With every track, Desert Pea Media cements itself as an integral part of Australia’s musical framework,” he said.

Spokesperson for the EPA CarmenDwyer, said the health of the local community can be severely impacted by poor waste management and that working with DPM allows community involvement and discussion on this issue.

“Our collaboration with DPM has helped us engage with the community around these issues, in a format that is inspiring for young people.”

The Barkindji Soldier’s new song Heartbeat was released on the 7th of March.

By Rachael Knowles

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