Indigenous Children’s Songs – 2023 Update!

This project was made possible by funding from the:

  • Northern Territory Community Benefit Fund
  • Sony Foundation
  • Australia Post Community Grants program
  • Milton Corporation Foundation and
  • Public donations.

The Gurrumul Yunupingu Foundation sincerely thank you!

The Indigenous Children’s Songs Project – Update!

The Gurrumul Yunupingu Foundation is very happy to share some great news about the Indigenous Children’s Song project.

All thirteen songs have been recorded, translated, arranged, and mixed specifically for the West Arnhem Land communities.

The Bininj Kunwok language Centre strongly supported the project and worked on the transcriptions and translations of all the songs to ensure cultural accuracy. The Gurrumul Foundation is very grateful for the Bininj Kunwok language Centre’s wonderful support.

The presentation of the songs still requires final approval by the Bininj Kunwok language Centre and the singers.

However, everyone agrees that the Indigenous Children’s Songs project is unique and extraordinary. The strength of language execution, by First Nations Women, singing pre-colonial stories and songs in a genre that combines traditional and contemporary singing is something of which we are extremely proud.

Two of the tracks can be listened to here:

Their English descriptors can be read here:

Barndol & Madjurn - Carpet Snake and Olive Python

Barndol dja Madjurn they were playing

After a while their playing changed into something else

Barndol turned around and started to make serious trouble for Madjurn

Then Madjurn said

“you grabbed my neck – I’m going to tell my dad about you”

“you’re going to wait right here for my dad”.

Nganabbarru (Buffalo)

This is a song called Buffalo song.

We call this Nganabbarru

Nganabbarru is walking around, eating grass.

And then they walk along following the buffalo track.

When Nganabbarru gets a full belly then they feel satisfied.

At night when the full moon comes Nganabbarru is dancing, happy and excited.

Further information on the project is below.

In 2018, the Gurrumul Yunupingu Foundation’s Indigenous Children’s Song Project was developed by Michael Hohnen. The project’s aim was to recover and promote Indigenous children’s songs from the precolonial era – songs which mothers sang and taught to their children.  There was great community support for the project and funding was received from trusts and foundations. But the advent of the COVID-19 virus pandemic in early 2020 put a stop to the project’s progress.

Restarting the project took considerable time, but the great news is the project is now in full swing.

After visits to Galiwin’ku at Elcho Island, and consultation with artist and singer, Jill Nganjmirra and community, the songs have been identified, and are currently being professionally recorded by four Indigenous women from the Wildflower band by project lead, Michael Hohnen. The songs are being sung in Kunwinjku, a language spoken in Western Arnhem Land.

The outcome of this project will be an amazing repository of songs for Indigenous children and their families, helping to keeping traditions alive – leading to increased cultural knowledge and wellbeing within community.

Narration is being included with the songs, and presented by the singers, to provide additional information for the children and their families on the songs’ topics and origins.

Importantly, the final recordings will be owned and shared by the community from which the songs were collected and will be homed in the Bininj Kunwok Language Centre. The songs will also be made available to mainstream Australia, who will be able to listen to the beautiful melodies sung by people from the oldest known culture on earth.

Michael Hohnen is a founding board member of the Gurrumul Yunupingu Foundation. To undertake this project, Michael has temporarily stood down from the board.

One recorded song, called Emu, can be listened to here:

Writers and singers of the Children’s Songs: Vanessa, Jean (Rear), Salome, and in the middle seated is Jill who is the lead and elder.