After a near two-decade detox from recording, Midnight Oil is back. Releasing their new album on Friday, the iconic Australian band brings that legendary sound that packs a punch and pairs it with a powerful message straight from the heart.

Their new album The Makarrata Project honours the Uluru Statement from the Heart. A seven-track mini-album, The Makarrata Project features a wealth of First Nations musicians, including Alice Skye, Dan Sultan, Leah Flanagan, Troy Cassar-Daley, Kev Carmody, Sammy Butcher and Frank Yamma.

The album also features a reading of the Uluru Statement from the Heart by Stan Grant, Ursula Yovich, Pat Anderson and Adam Goodes.

“For the first offering to be the Makarrata Project with all the incredible contributions that First Nations artists have made to it is actually very special to us,” said Midnight Oil lead singer, Peter Garrett.

“When the Uluru Statement from the Heart was first released it was such a strong and powerful statement. It was so poignant.

“When Malcolm Turnbull basically flicked it, we thought it was a great tragedy and it didn’t deserve to be gathering dust somewhere, so to speak.

“We knew there was a movement of people … and we wanted that movement to build particularly from a whitefella perspective so that those listeners of ours could get to understand what was at stake here.”

In the lead up to the album, Midnight Oil released the single First Nation which features Jessica Mauboy and Tasman Keith. A collaboration weaving pop, rock and hip-hop together, First Nation gained immediate attention.

Mauboy told NIT she was pinching herself the entire time they were recording, and that she felt a deep connection to the track.

“This is such a signature for Midnight Oil. This is their identity,” she said.

“The lyrics are so proper true, tears started rolling out my eyes when I heard it and I looked at Peter and he started crying.

“It was the first time falling in love with it … when I got an MP3 file I was playing it non-stop.”

Standing strong in support of the Statement, Mauboy reflected on the purpose of this project.

“We have been waiting for this … These concerns, stories and issues being faced in communities are being toyed and played with. How long can we wait? The fight is coming through passion and love but how long can that be sustained?” she said.

“The whole part of this is the underlying annoyance of it not going any faster. I stand with the Statement. This is probably the most open and crucial time where we can really voice this.”

“We need both sides to look at this from a humanity level and know what is right and what is not right … We want it to happen.”

Tasman Keith, who features alongside Mauboy, grew up listening to Midnight Oil.

“I honestly I don’t think you can grow up in this country without at least hearing one Midnight Oil song,” he said.

Not meant to feature on First Nation at first, Keith felt connected to the song and wrote his own verse, putting his own touch on the tune.

“I stay ready for moments like this and knew it was something I could do the minute I got the call up. I remember first hearing Jess’ vocals when I went back the following week and then it hit me how incredible and special this song is,” he said.

Keith jumped at the chance to be part of a powerful statement.

“It’s a message that’s important and a statement that will see the start of true representation of Indigenous people inside of these structures that have held us down for so long,” he said.

Midnight Oil is no stranger to activism in the musical sphere and doesn’t back down on delivering that in The Makarrata Project. A timely release, the album will push the need for action.

“Whether it is Warragamba, whether it is what is happening in Victoria, whether it is the fact … a police officer was charged for the murder of Kumanjayi Walker in the NT,” Garrett said.

“Whether it is the renewed focus on the terrible incidences of people being locked up and in some instances being treated poorly, taking their lives or losing their lives. It feels like it has never been a more important time to put this album out there.

“This really does lift the tempo on what is an urgent and critical situation. To make right the wrongs, to get our history sorted out, to be a unified nation, to produce the justice and the recognition and the opportunity for First Nations people that is so long overdue.

“This is the time. National leadership is now needed more than ever.”

By Rachael Knowles