Newslines Radio: Musical Legends, Warren H. Williams
- Nathan Ramsay
- Warren H. Williams, 2012 Red Ochre Award winner, NT
Lonely Boy, Warren H Williams
PRESENTER: Hi, I’m Nathan Ramsay and you’re listening to Newslines Radio, an Australian Government program on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues.
Today we’re talking to one of country music’s leading stars, Warren H Williams.
WILLIAMS: I come from out bush. I still have to pinch myself about what I do in life. I’ve got a music career that’s getting stronger and stronger and it’s really humbling for me.
PRESENTER: Warren H Williams, a Western Aranda man from Ntaria in central Australia, has been one of Australia’s leading country musicians for two decades, winning just about every award possible, from a Golden Guitar to NAIDOC Artist of the Year and the prestigious Red Ochre Award at this year’s National Indigenous Art Awards.
I asked Warren why he decided to record his latest album Winanjjara in Warumunga, the language of his grandmother.
WILLIAMS: I didn’t know that Warumunga was one of the languages that is fading out fast, dying out fast, so when Barkly Arts asked me to do this album, the Winanjjara album, I said “yeah, let’s do it”, so now I’m getting some reports back that some of the kids are now getting involved in recording in Warumunga, which is good after we did the album, it’s amazing.
I just want to keep on doing things with language now. Preserving the language and singing the songs and preserving our land and culture, just keep them intact and it’s easier doing it like this. Kids can learn if it’s a good, upbeat song, the kids will sing the song without knowing they’re learning the language too.
But for me it’s really, really important to keep our culture alive and what a way to do it. If you can write songs in language.
PRESENTER: Like Bunna, Warren is also heavily involved in working with at-risk Indigenous people, particularly on suicide prevention.
WILLIAMS: Well, mental health is, well, I can talk about I suicide because I work with the suicide story program and that’s about going out bush and … because, for us, suicide isn’t really anything, there’s no word for “suicide” in Aboriginal languages. We have to find out how to explain to an Aboriginal person what suicide is because, for an Aboriginal person to take their own life is a sin and it doesn’t happen because when you take your own life it means that someone else done it rather than you take your own life.
So we try to talk to the kids and ask them what the kids want, just ask them what’s troubling them, because kids don’t talk to their parents or talk to their, and it’s easy for me to go out to the community because they know me through my music and know who I am and they talk to me so it’s easy for me to help them.
You ask them “is there a friend of yours, is there someone in the community you know is having a problem with their lives? If they are, tell them to come to us.”
A lot of the kids get shamed to talk to white people. Better for them to talk to Aboriginal people. So, I’m proud to say that we have helped a few kids to get over it and help themselves but we’ve still got a long way to go.
I want more kids who are in trouble to come to talk to us so we can point them to the right people who can help them.
PRESENTER: And Warren sees highlighting positive Indigenous news stories and achievements as one of the best ways to give Aboriginal people emotional support.
WILLIAMS: Aboriginal things like CAAMA Radio, where I work, we try to do positive stuff. It’s good too. We’ve got the RIBS service and we’ve got your show on the RIBS service, the Remote Indigenous Broadcasting Service, and it goes to all the communities that broadcasts through CAAMA, the out bush mob. That’s a happy story in itself and we’re leading it, we’re talking about our people. We’re going to create good stories and listen and talk about the good stuff that Aboriginal people are doing.
It’s time for the Aboriginal people to tell their stories and fortunately people like me and Gurrumul are really lucky to have the medium that can take us out in the world; he’s doing it and we’re definitely going to do it too.
PRESENTER: That was leading country musician Warren H Williams telling us about his efforts to use music, radio and stories to help bring down suicide levels in Aboriginal communities.
And it’s great to hear that Warren sees programs like Newslines Radio as contributing to building stronger people and communities.
To find out how else the Australian Government is working with communities to support the mental health of our people, visit our website at indigenous.gov.au.
You can also follow Closing the Gap on Twitter, and friend Indigenous Newslines on Facebook.
And remember, if you feel you need assistance or someone to talk to you can contact Lifeline on 13 11 44, or the Kid’s Help Line on 1800 55 1800 or beyondblue on 1300 244636.
Let’s go out today with Warren singing “Lonely Boy” from his latest album Winanjjara.
I’m Nathan Ramsay, thanks for listening to Newslines Radio.