Attending school & completing school

Using music to improve literacy

Aboriginal women at Dillwynia’s correctional centre on Sydney’s outskirts have been inspired by a new educational literacy project named ‘Garabara’. This project engages Aboriginal women to become involved in Tafe communication courses offered at the centre through cultural music. The growing group gets together to listen, study and review Aboriginal artists featured on Triple J’s Unearthed radio program. 

Participants of the Garabara project spoke to 2ser radio program Jailbreak about how this musical approach impacted on their learning and time inside.

Terri: I’m an Indigenous woman and I’ve come to realise how many artists are out there trying to make it. What’s inspired me the most is the truth (in the lyrics). Garabara has inspired me a lot and helped me through my hardest times in jail. You can lock yourself in your cell, get creative in your mind, use your imagination, set your mind free and just escape the jail rush and all the stuff that goes on. It’s been really helpful. I would say to listeners, listen up to what Indigenous people of Australia have got to sing about!

Goori: Hi, my name is Goori. I’m from the Kamilaroi tribe from Tamworth. Every Wednesday morning the Garabara class listens to the songs. We write down all the instruments we can hear, what sort of genre, whether it’s hip hop, reggae or indie rock. I actually never knew what genre meant! Then we rate the song from one to five and write about what the song means. On Fridays we do the fan mail and write letters to them.

Terri: Garabara’s all about music, Aboriginal music. It’s beautiful when we receive messages back. It goes to show there’s compassion. Even though we’re not face-to-face we’re still sharing thoughts and words. It’s really great when we get the emails back and it’s inspiring too. One of the girls (Mama Africa) wrote and inspired the band East Journey to write a song about her. For a couple of weeks there was a mix-up in the emails and the band thought I was the one who wrote the email. So now my mission is to go and find the real ‘Mama Africa’ to let her know that East Journey are writing a song about her.

Goori: Garabara’s been good here in jail. On the weekends it’s nice to turn on the Dillwynia DVD channel and listen to Garabara music. There are a lot of good songs and musicians. I had no idea there were so many Indigenous singers and bands. So many Indigenous people sing!

Terri: Garabara’s motivated me, strengthened my commitment and I found it helped me cope with some of the hardest times in jail. I think it interested me more because it is Indigenous music and being about the truth, our experience. It’s beautiful to hear our culture being sung and hearing about our homeland. It would be nice for the world to be able to share in the music. I’ve never been able to hear somebody from my homeland sing about the land that we belong to and tell them about it. We’ve all faced struggles and trials throughout life. Their stories and messages are empowering. I believe in the power of music, I believe in the power of dance, I also believe in the power of people. Garabara’s all about strength, it brings a lot of strength, it brings encouragement.


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