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Gearing up to play in the Didgeridoo Orchestra at the Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony

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Two Aboriginal young men, wearing colourful shirts, hold didgeridoos as they stand beneath a blue and gold sign which includes a coat of arms.
Keane Ryan (left) and Mathew Ederer on show to the nations of the Commonwealth.
4 Apr 2018

Playing in the Four Winds Didgeridoo Orchestra in front of tens of thousands of people during the opening ceremony of the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games is an honour.

But, it’s also daunting for two young Aboriginal men, Keane Ryan and Mathew Ederer, boarding students at Mount St Bernard College in North Queensland.

Keane from Santa Teresa near Alice Springs and Mathew from the Tablelands of North Queensland are both in year 12.

‘When selected, I was really excited and surprised at the same time – did not think we would be good enough to perform at a big event. But we will give it our best shot,’ Keane said.

‘Even going to the practices we have been nervous – with just the other dancers watching us – we are hoping we do not get too nervous on the day in front of a big crowd.’

Both are self-taught and have been playing the didgeridoo since year 9 when they joined the college’s ‘Didge Kids” group. They are now the ‘elder statesmen’ of this group of about 10 students including didge players, drummers, guitarists and some solo singers.

The group has performed around Brisbane and the local area at various events – including Dream World on the Gold Coast.

As unpaid volunteers, Keane and Mathew were responsible for funding their costs that included 10 return flights from Cairns to the Gold Coast.

David Finch, Principal of the college said the Queensland Government’s Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships came to the rescue.

‘They have been very supportive and have paid for the flights for the boys and a staff member to attend all sessions – the college is very grateful for this wonderful support,’ David said.

During the longer stays the boys were billeted with staff from St Edmunds College in Ipswich. They attended some classes during the weekdays and attended rehearsals at night.

Time spent at St Edmunds, a much larger and all-boys school, has been an experience in itself.

‘They were very kind to us,’ Mathew said.

‘They have a boy in Year 10 who has been learning the didge so we have been giving him a few lessons and playing alongside him in music classes.’

‘They don’t have any Indigenous kids, so I guess they noticed us. But we have had a lot of fun.’

While Mathew said he hopes to check out the beach volleyball at the games, Keane is hoping nobody catches him and Mathew out of step.

‘We have been practising with some Indigenous musicians and singers which has been exciting,’ Keane said.

‘It has made us feel special that we can use our talent to promote our culture through music and dance – our Principal pushes this all the time and always looks at opportunities for us to do well,’ Keane said.

‘And we enjoy it too.’

Find out more

The Four Winds Didgeridoo Orchestra received joint funding from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Department of Communications and the Arts.

Getting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children to school and on a pathway to a successful career and fulfilling life is a priority for the Australian Government.

The Roman Catholic Trust Corporation for the Diocese of Cairns is funded through the Indigenous Advancement Strategy (Children and Schooling) to deliver the Flexible Learning Program at three sites in Far North Queensland including Mount Saint Bernard College in Herberton.

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