ARIA Award-winning musician Adrian Eagle.

Students at Yipirinya School have workshopped songs and laid down beats with ARIA Award-winning musician Adrian Eagle, as part of a new relationship between the school and Jesuit Social Services that will provide opportunities for performance, self-expression, and new narratives for First Nations young people in Mparntwe/Alice Springs.

Through our Artful Dodgers Studios, Adrian has previously given talks and workshops at schools around Melbourne. We were then able to secure grant funding to bring the rapper to Alice Springs for a fortnight-long workshop series last September.

“We were so lucky and blessed to be able to talk with these bubs, to help them express themselves,” he said.

“They came out the gate with these amazing poems. They’re little bubs, five years old up to 13, all of them love music, love expressing themselves, dancing, coming out of their shells to share their stories. They were filled with lots to say. It was a privilege to be able to encourage them.”

Over the first workshop series, Adrian guided students through structuring and recording songs, encouraging kids to overcome nervousness and build self-confidence.

“It could have been a one-off thing, but we’re very big on relational working, developing good relationships with our partners, and we wanted to build on that,” said Sally Gray, a convener on Jesuit Social Services’ Youth Justice Group Conferencing program in the Northern Territory.

“We’re making sure we’re developing an integrated approach towards working with the school – extending and strengthening the relationship, working therapeutically and restoratively.”

Sally said initiatives like the music workshops are an opportunity to work pre-emptively and provide young people facing challenges with more language to express their strengths and experiences.

“A key part of restorative work is the importance of restoring relationships,” she said.

“The things the kids were singing about – emphasising the importance of kinship relationships of brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers – show that strong relationships mean everything.”

“I close my eyes and the Dreaming begins... my culture, my Country, my family, my friends.”

There has been national attention on children in Alice Springs who have contact with the youth justice system, who are among the most marginalised children in our community. Sally said children rapped about feeling “like animals” and being looked down upon.

“They spoke so strongly. We’re getting a sense of how they’re feeling about that portrayal of themselves.”

Adrian said students’ eyes “lit up” when they heard their recordings back and received positive feedback, and that leading the workshops gives him purpose and makes him feel grateful.

“Music is always going to be in my life, and doing things like this is the ultimate contribution I can be making with my voice and my skills – helping the bubs to express themselves.”

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