Griffith University: Keeping First Nations languages alive through song

Griffith University student Candace Kruger has been commissioned to create a song in language for the largest virtual orchestra ever assembled in Australia.

The Australian Music Examinations Board (AMEB) Online Orchestra will perform Ms Kruger’s song Morning Star and Evening Star, based on a lullaby passed down through more than seven generations of her family.

“The song came to me from my Aunty Lottie, who wanted to have Morning Star and Evening Star passed on and shared,” she said.

“Alongside my cousin Lann Levinge, my daughter Isobella Kruger, and blessed by our Elders, we hope that through the Morning Star and Evening Star songline, people will enjoy learning the narrative of our people.”

“We hope that through the Morning Star and Evening Star songline, people will enjoy learning the narrative of our people.”

The proud Kombumerri and Ngughi woman is in the final stages of completing her PhD at Griffith University, under the supervision of Professor Sarah Baker. Her research explores ways to keep Indigenous languages alive through song.

“My research thesis looks at community protocols and permissions, and how information can be passed on from Elders and community members to educators, or anyone else who wants to sing Aboriginal songs,” Ms Kruger said.

“On the AMEB online orchestra website, there are Indigenous education resources to accompany the song which outlines important cultural protocols, permissions and dreamtime stories, everything you need to understand what this song is actually about.”

Ms Kruger juggles her doctoral studies with a career as an educator – she is the head of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Perspectives at Beenleigh State High School and the director of the Yugambeh Youth Choir.

The ensemble won a Queensland Reconciliation Award and performed in the Opening and Closing ceremonies of the Commonwealth Games.

“We meet twice a week at Logan and on the Gold Coast, and the kids are given the chance to sing in their own language,” she said.

“I refer to it as singing the language alive – we do everything in Yugambeh from the national anthem to Christmas carols and traditional songs set to my own melodies.

“It’s a way in for these kids – music is allowing them to learn their language, rediscover their Aboriginality and find their place.”

“It helps them connect to an identity that they hadn’t previously understood.”

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