Hello! So I haven’t been blogging for a while. It’s a combination of many things – my website back-end hadn’t been updated for a while, so was deemed to be ‘unsafe’ to visit. (Thank you to husband a techguru Ben who has now fixed it!).

I was playing a large number of concerts, which meant many hours of practise. Sadly, I can’t just sit down and play whatever I have chosen – it takes me a number of hours by myself getting things ready to rehearse – and then there’s the rehearsals on top of that.

And then there was the teaching during 2020. Wowsers. What a year. I was very thankful for all the years of experience under my belt. That fact I could change things on the fly if I needed to. The years of testing things and knowing what works and what doesn’t. It really brought home the need to kids to play music. To create. To have something that makes them smile and laugh in their day.

And now, facing 2021, I know it’ll be much the same. I walk into this year of teaching knowing a bit more what to expect. I won’t be playing quite as many concerts.

But I’ll be back blogging! Hope you can join me on my weekly (or so) rants and reflections….

So I’m going to come out and say it – our current National anthem makes me uncomfortable. So if this makes you angry, and you don’t want to know why, stop reading. Go and make a cup of tea and look at Buzzfeed, or something like that.

I am not Indigenous, but I work with a lot of children who are. And many of them have been told by their families not to sing ‘Advance Australia Fair’. For a number of reasons. The ‘young’ part. The ‘free’ part. The ‘wealth for toil’ part. Senator Briggs says things very well here… It’s hard to talk to a child about this who is obviously conflicted – their school is wanting them to sing it, and their family is saying it’s wrong. So what do they do? (And why should they be put in that position anyway?) I am also uncomfortable with the line in the second verse about ‘We’ve boundless plains to share’. If we have, why is our refugee policy the way it currently is?

I’ve tried to change things as much as I can in the schools I’m in, introducing a first verse in Sydney Eora language, and creating a backing track that is good to sing with. But the song is awkward to sing as well – lots of jumps, and a big range. It’s not my favourite musical thing to sing either.

Why am I reflecting on this at the moment?

You see, I am going to teach a version of ‘We are Australian’ to a large group of children I see regularly. We’re going to sing the chorus first in an Indigenous language (one from Broome. Kids love singing in languages, and it’s a fabulous, fabulous learning tool.), and then in English. It’s a great song – really singable. The verses are really well written – they cover so many things carefully and respectfully. And what a great sentiment. I am. You are. We are Australian. All of us. We’re all here, and living together.

So why are we sticking with a song that makes people uncomfortable and angry? A song that was only decided on in 1984? A song that’s difficult to sing? I shake my head, you know. And I continue to sit and wonder.

I teach in schools three days a week. And I am KNACKERED. I don’t know how teachers are doing it five days a week. Here’s what it’s like….

Kids are TIRED. They are exhausted. And that means no-one has any patience for their class mates. There’s more kids in tears, more kids angry, more weird behaviour going on.

Kids are anxious. And that throws up all sorts of strange behaviour – and conversations that need to be had, but navigated so carefully. Their teachers are doing this, you know.

Any kids that are ‘active’ are bouncing off the walls right now. This makes teaching hard.

Many kids have really withdrawn into themselves after weeks of staring at a computer screen. Imagine also needing to teach this – along the really active kids.

No little people has a very strong sense of community right now. So kids aren’t helping others very much, or looking out for one another. This makes things even harder.

Playgrounds are ROUGH. Tears. Lots of.

And through this the teachers are teaching. They are smiling. They are doing their absolute best. They are putting up with all sorts of stuff – and they are doing their jobs. Wonderfully.

And the point of this? If you are reading this, and know a teacher, appreciate them. Buy them flowers. Or a coffee. Give them a thumbs-up. They are even more extraordinary than they were before.

Like most creatives, every so often I get overwhelmed with black thoughts. After so many years of this, I know what I need to do to turn the tide – and most of the time, it works. I don’t sink for very long. I might have a week of not being particularly sunny, but for the most part, I’m okay.

And then I find it really helpful to then sit and reflect on what was the trigger for the slide down to see the black dog. Not instantly, but a week or so later, when I feel stronger.

The reason I’m writing this is it’s one of those times. I’ve had a few black days. They are over now – but there was a while where I wasn’t very strong at all. I am hugely lucky. I have a rock of a husband, who will prop me up. I have some hugely supportive friends – including one who’ll drop in with a coffee and a hug whenever I need it (how good is that??!!). I have work that inspires me. But every so often I slip.

I am hearing about all the stimulus packages in Australia post-COVID. There’s building stimulus packages, and help for sports codes. There’s a lot of talk about getting crowds back to sports games and into shopping malls. There’s nothing (yet??) to help artists.

Now, I am lucky. I’ve been able to run on-line concerts. I’ve had overwhelming support from audience members. I’ve been able to employ others. This post is not about me, and how I am hard done-by. Oh no sirree. This is about my fellow artists. Who have been brought to their knees. Who will continue to struggle for months. For years. And seem to be overlooked by the powers-that-be. We are working, doing what we can, even through we are doing it very much on our own.

And every so often, not very often, but every so, I reflect on it for a little too long. And I drop my head in my hands. It’s all too much.

If I was ruling the country for a while, I’d change a few things. (This is a fun game to play. I recommend it.) I’d stop NAPLAN. (Children are not all the same, so don’t test them like that. It’s not useful, or helpful.) I’d pay teachers more. I’d pay politicians less (at least until they behave better). I’d make tampons free. I’d make arts education compulsory in every school. And I’d change the way the arts are viewed in this country. I’d help all the artists who needed for a long while post-‘rona. Actors, painters, poets, musicians – anyone who was struggling. I’d give money to theatres and small venues. I’d make music licenses easier to get. Because who relied on the arts to get you through lockdown? Who read more, watched more, listened more?

Thought so.

Today I’m fine. And I’ll continue to be so. And I am very lucky. Thank you to everyone who has helped me be so. And to my fellow creatives? Hang in there, my friends.

So here’s a type of email I’m getting a lot at the moment.

“I booked a ticket on insert date here. I don’t have the link. Why hasn’t this been sent to me?”

There’s no please. No thank you. No wondering if in fact the person has made an error.

This is the email I send back.

“Dear insert name here. I’m sorry you are having trouble. You mightn’t have realised, but the link for the concert won’t be sent to you until two hours before the concert, on the night of the concert – which isn’t until insert date here. So you’ll hear nothing from us until then! Hope it works for you. Please do let me know if anything is unclear, though. Happy to help!”

Sometimes the emails even come in CAPITAL LETTERS, which as far as I’m concerned is SHOUTING.

And that’s the last I hear from these people. No ‘Oops’. Or ‘My mistake.’ Not even a ‘Sorry I got a bit angry.’

I know these are hard times. Goodness knows musicians know that. People are reacting in all sorts of ways. But could we all just remember our manners, please? Please?