Up-and-coming country music singer-songwriter Angus Gill was in Year 11 at school when the plight of the Stolen Generation moved him so greatly that he felt the urge to write a song about it.
The-then 17-year-old non-Indigenous teenager from Wauchope in New South Wales talked it over with Indigenous country music singer-songwriter Kevin Bennett, who was in his 50s when he discovered his own Aboriginal heritage in 2005.
Three years later the song that Gill and Bennett wrote as a song of reflection — ‘Starin’ Out the Back of a Car’ — has been released along with a film clip for National Reconciliation Week, which runs until June 3, and for Sorry Day last week.
“At the time I wrote it, I was finishing off my HSC and I was studying the Stolen Generation through my history course and it led me to watch the film Rabbit Proof Fence,” Gill, 20, says.
“I remember sitting there and there was the scene where the kids were being taken away and I was overcome with emotion and I could empathise a lot coming from a family with very strong family connections.
“I could really empathise with that feeling of disconnection, of being forcibly disconnected without the possibility of ever seeing them again.
“The words are unimaginable about how that would feel.”
Gill said the lyric “It’s hard to look forward when you are staring out the back of a car” came to him quickly and he approached Bennett, a Golden Guitar winner he knew from the country music circuit.
When the track was recorded, fellow Indigenous country music balladeer Amos Morris was also involved and appears in the clip.
Bennett, 65, said he had known Gill since Gill was about 12 years old.
“He approached me a while back about writing this song and I thought it was amazing that a young teenager was wanting to write a song like that,” Bennett says.
“When he was deciding to make his album he was deciding which songs to put on it and he had this idea to do a song about the Stolen Generation but he wasn’t sure how to approach it as a 17-year-old white fella.
“He sought me out to have a chat to me about it and to see if I would help him in the writing department. I thought it was a really good thing to do.”
Bennett said Gill’s attitude showed the message was getting through in schools.
“I think a lot of older people, they didn’t learn anything like that at school,” he says.
“It was like, that’s refreshing.”
‘Starin’ Out the Back of a Car’ is also contained in Gill’s first album, Nomad, which was released in September.
Listen to the song here.