Indigenous Children’s Songs

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.