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Episode 7 · 56 minutes
Christine Anu (Award Winning Songwriter, Performer and Radio Host)
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In a compelling conversation, Christine Anu shares her inspiring journey from the Torres Strait Islands to becoming an acclaimed Indigenous artist in Australia. Reflecting on her early life, Christine highlights the profound influence of her heritage and the arts in shaping her career, underscored by her involvement in social activism and the importance of cultural representation. 

We dive deep into Christine's multifaceted career, her dedication to educating Australians about Indigenous culture, and her personal growth influenced by motherhood and a commitment to community work. Christine's narrative beautifully illustrates the power of art, heritage, and activism in fostering understanding and change, making her story a captivating exploration of resilience, identity, and the impact of a life lived with purpose.

Key Takeaways

  • Embrace Your Heritage in Your Work: Christine’s journey from the Torres Strait Islands to an iconic career in entertainment shows the importance of embracing your cultural heritage into your professional life. Whether it’s through music, dance, or any form of creative expression, showcasing your background can enrich your work and resonate deeply with diverse audiences.

  • Find Growth Through Change: Transitioning from a small island community to the urban landscapes of Brisbane and Sydney, Christine exemplifies the value of embracing change for personal and career growth. Stepping out of your comfort zone and adapting to new environments can offer new talents and opportunities.

  • Engage with Community and Cultural Initiatives: Christine’s involvement with cultural and educational initiatives, such as teaching language through song and dance in schools, shows the impact of giving back to the community. Look for ways to contribute your skills and knowledge to educate and inspire others, particularly the younger generation.

  • Use Your Story to Inspire Others: Sharing stories from her life, Christine illustrates the empowerment that comes from owning and telling your personal narrative. Whether through speaking engagements, interviews, or performances, use your stories to inspire, educate, and connect with others.

  • Become the Most Confident Version of Yourself: Christine’s transition from uncertainty to finding her voice as a performer and advocate underscores the importance of self-belief and perseverance. Building confidence in your abilities can transform your approach to challenges and enable you to stand up for yourself and others.

  • Create Safe and Inclusive Spaces: Her efforts to create a supportive environment for her team and family highlight the significance of inclusivity and respect in all settings. Strive to build spaces where everyone feels valued and can thrive, regardless of their background or identity.

  • Respect and Learn from Elders: We must appreciate the stories and wisdom of our elders, and value the knowledge and experiences of those who came before us. Seek opportunities to listen to and learn from the elderly in your community, recognising them as invaluable sources of life’s lessons.

Who is Christine Anu?

Christine Anu is a household name in Australia, celebrated not just for her iconic songs but also for her remarkable versatility across music, theatre, film, and TV. With a career that’s flourished over two decades, Christine has not only bagged multiple ARIA and Deadly Awards but also starred in stage hits like "Rent" and on the big screen in "Moulin Rouge!" Beyond her artistic achievements, Christine is deeply invested in her community, actively supporting the Cathy Freeman Foundation and championing the cause of Buk Bilong Pikinini to improve literacy among children in Papua New Guinea.

Christine’s journey from the Torres Strait Islands to the heart of Australia’s entertainment industry exemplifies her as a signal of cultural pride and innovation. Christine’s role extends beyond performance; she's a motivational speaker and an ambassador for Indigenous rights, using her platform to inspire and make a tangible difference in the community. Her story is one of passion, creativity, and a deep commitment to her roots, making her not only an accomplished artist but a true Australian icon.

Links & Social Media

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Whether you're looking to dive deeper into your current career path or explore something totally different, our comprehensive online courses offer the flexibility and depth you need to turn your passion into career purpose.

Find your perfect online course and embark on a journey of discovery and achievement, all from the comfort of your home. Let Christine Anu's story be the spark that ignites your own path to success with Online Courses Australia.

Listen on:

[00:00:00.410] - Speaker 2

Welcome to this episode of the Learning Without Limits podcast series for The Learning Lounge. I'm your host, Melanie Bernicke. This episode, I'm chatting with Australian Music Royalty. Yep, eight albums, 17 Aria nominations. She's an award-winning songwriter and performer. She has appeared in films such as Milla Muj, The Matrix, and UnSound, appeared stage productions such as Rent, Rocky Horror. Is there anything that this woman has not done? She's got her own radio show, and yes, she's done children's entertainment, and she's got a course that she runs through schools as well, teaching her culture. Now, we'll be chatting What are we chatting with today? I'm chatting with the amazingly talented and wonderful human being, Christine. I know. Thanks, Christine, for joining me.

[00:00:52.640] - Speaker 1

Oh, my God. It's absolutely amazing. I mean, this is a bit weird. It's so weird. I'm especially propped over there somewhere waiting to powder me down.

[00:01:00.150] - Speaker 2

It's exactly right. So for anyone that doesn't know, I do Christine's makeup a lot. And this role reversal is quite interesting. I feel like I should be waiting to do touch-ups, not having the conversation. But it's a nice little adventure. We always tell stories on our make up adventure. So today, actually sitting back and relaxing telling the story.

[00:01:18.780] - Speaker 1

It's definitely fantastic. I'm waiting to be surprised by you in the seat. How exciting. Holding. But I'd like to I'll start Mel, if you may, if I may, firstly by paying my respects to elders and acknowledging elders past, present, and emerging, and paying my respects to being on and acknowledging the land that we're on today.

[00:01:44.860] - Speaker 2

I love that. It's a very nice way to start our interview, as it should be. Awesome. Christine, can we start back? Because I know so many amazing things that you've done, but I'd love to just go straight back to your childhood and talk about where you grew grew up and was singing a part of your family life growing up. Tell me a bit about that childhood experience for you.

[00:02:09.630] - Speaker 1

Yeah. So I put on green today as a I pay homage to my island heritage, my Torres Strait Island heritage. I grew up... My early years, I grew up in Brisbane, and around about when I was about 10, my grandfather passed away. He came to stay with us for a little bit in Brisbane. He passed away, and it was a massive loss for the community. I remember I was quite young, but I was old enough to know the loss that the family felt, but the community felt as a whole. And shortly after that, my parents decided to shut shop and haul up the camp and take all of us kids and head, follow the sun north into past Cairns, past the tip of Australia into the Torres Strait Islands. So we went back into pretty primitive way of living. And as far as singing goes, we I really quickly learn that singing is a very big part of cultural way of living. Fast forward, I've finished high school and I've decided to join a dance college in Sydney, in Gleeve.

[00:03:30.130] - Speaker 2

So that's how then you've moved and transitioned from the islands. So you just packed up and just jumped on a bus.

[00:03:37.560] - Speaker 1

Well, we had to go to boarding school first. So we leave the island to attend boarding school.

[00:03:42.120] - Speaker 2

Were you dancing at the time?

[00:03:44.640] - Speaker 1

No, I wasn't dancing at all. I'm a late bloomer in every sense of the word. So my first year was 1988. It was the year of the bicentenary in Australia. There were protests, marches happening all over in every capital city, all all over Australia. And see, when it comes to protest marches and social commentary, and Aboriginal Torres Strait Island is really being out there and being activists. I'd only ever seen that on the news, on television, in the safety and comfort of my home with my parents. In my first year at the Dance College, they pulled us out of classrooms and we would be invoiced involved in these marches. And not only that, the dances that we'd be learning in the classrooms because we were learning Aboriginal, Torres, Rhode Islander songs and dances. And we'd be taking it out of that classroom environment and we'd be in the streets Where the rallies were happening. And so when we weren't marching, we were dancing in the streets of Sydney at the time. And so it was really an interesting time for, it would have been 17, 18, going on 18. An amazing time for your brain to be formulating itself and finding your social voice in all of that.

[00:05:07.870] - Speaker 1

So there was plenty of opportunities to perform and become a really quite, I don't know, different Different special type of dancer.

[00:05:16.820] - Speaker 2

Yeah. I think as well, having that nice understanding what you were saying, from going from watching something on the TV to physically being there. And I think whenever you're involved in something, it changes and shifts something can you, and when you feel like you're even more a part of something when you are involved, and by being able to express those things through dance and through the love of all of that, what a nice way to bring your culture into the forefront of what needs to be seen in Australia.

[00:05:47.700] - Speaker 1

I find it so different now because my daughter's generation is the hashtag movement. They voice their opinion from behind a screen. And that's how they seem to be following a movement. Yes. Whereas my generation was very much in the streets, on the ground, being involved, showing up physically and saying, I stand for this, and I stand for that. So very, very different time to then to now. And seeing the world through my daughter's eyes is a very interesting way of looking at that as well, because I started her off dancing when she was a little one. So she's following in the parallels of my life as well in that regard.

[00:06:41.490] - Speaker 2

And I've heard her sing.

[00:06:42.680] - Speaker 1

And she sing as well.

[00:06:45.800] - Speaker 2

I don't know. For me personally, when I remember growing up, I think Zee's age and their generation, I think people feel that they have a voice from a young age. For me, growing up, I was a kid in the '70s. But for me, growing up, I feel sometimes I felt like I personally didn't have a voice just maybe even as a woman, not even someone like yourself who is Indigenous Australian. And so I just found it wasn't until a certain point in my life, I was like, actually, I have a voice. And I had been told, well, you're a woman, you don't have a place or things like that. And I think what is beautiful about the youth of today Is that they feel that they do have a voice, even if it is behind a screen, but they do feel that they're entitled to share their voice. And it took me a long time for me personally to find that I was allowed to do that. And I think it's different It's a big thing for everybody. But I think there's something beautiful about today's age where most people from that young age, and that teaches me that they can have a voice.

[00:07:54.770] - Speaker 2

And you've got a few years behind you. Well, then it's okay to stand up and speak. Whereas I think I used hide behind things.

[00:08:02.210] - Speaker 1

Well, things like the #MeToo movement really did set a precedent for women's voices to be heard, and that it matters what women have to say, but that things have happened, and that we have had a culture for way too long that has suppressed what happens to women, and that the truth behind it is that just because we see the world through a man's eyes, it doesn't mean that that is the right way that things need to be conducted. And I think with the next generation of women coming through, the way that we write scripts, the way that we will see stories being told back to us will be all inclusive as well.

[00:08:44.450] - Speaker 2

Yeah, I think your career has seen you do so many different things in the music or in the entertainment industry because you cover pretty much all of it. Have you seen a massive change from how you might have been treated in the beginning to how you're treated now, whether it be as a woman?

[00:09:08.570] - Speaker 1

It's a very interesting one because I always ask, I'm asked, just recently asked, what is my What does my reconciliation Australia journey look like for me? What does reconciliation in Australia look like for me? That's a great question. I was 21, 22 when I was starting out in an industry that... I mean, it's very hard to make it in the music industry in Australia, let alone being young and a black woman. It was hard because I had to push always against the majority of males who are decision-makers in my circle, the pushback would always be, You don't need to worry about that. But I do need to worry about that because this is my presentation. I am my product. I'm the one getting out of bed. The voice belongs to me. It's inside my body. I have to make those decisions. If you allow people to make those decisions for you from the very beginning of your career, it will stay that way. But I think I came because I had that support from the outset and that I was coming from a place of, you know what? My I have to lean on my culture.

[00:10:31.900] - Speaker 1

I can't make a lot of decisions that might be adverse to what the people in my community feel and think. And because I had proper representation saying, we can't do things that will offend people in my culture. There was that respect. And thank God I had people like Michael Godinski at the helm in Mush Records that had people Looking after the label that said, yes, we have to make sure that the voice of Indigenous Australians are supported. And I felt that I had that from the beginning.

[00:11:12.500] - Speaker 2

Wow. What a really nice place to be, especially in the music industry, because even whether you're a black woman or just a woman in general, most people, they put them into a pop star copycat to get them going. And what they were embracing was your culture and your own identity. And I think that also is a testament to the inner strength of you and working with them, the fact that people cared because you care.

[00:11:39.650] - Speaker 1

Well, and I love the fact that Australia was still in a place where the music industry was trying to find what Australia's music industry sounds like. What does Australia's music sound like? And I am very fortunate to have come in at a time when Godinsky wanted to get artists on board that lent to what that music soundscape would be like. So I was given the opportunity to put my own language into music and be myself. So kudos to Mush Records for that opportunity.

[00:12:18.360] - Speaker 2

Yeah, amazing. I like hearing those stories because there's so many different things you hear about the entertainment industry. When you hear something that's really lovely like that, and then you get to cement yourself. And that's what we've known you for, as well as part of the Australian music culture. And you really do, whether you're singing in your native language or the other songs everyone knows.

[00:12:43.310] - Speaker 1

And it's done in a way, too, that It's my native language, but this is Australia's cultural heritage. It might belong to me, but I'm sharing it. And this is what the beauty of music is. And the thing that I find That is my great privilege and honour is that I have a place, a job that I respect, and that I take seriously in order for it to be I don't know. It's a place to educate people. I love the opportunity to be able to gift it to Australia.

[00:13:24.430] - Speaker 2

When you sing in your native language, I was having a chat to the producer before you came in. I always cried just talking the day when you and Zeepe were singing together, and it was, I think, for the football, and you were doing... We had the Opera House in the background, and then you guys were singing, I'm standing up the back crying. There's something about when you sing in your native language, that just shifts something on the inside, and I can't even explain it. It's just it's magical. I think every time you do it, I cry, and I'm just like, the emotional Paisian. I don't know. There's something really beautiful about it. Thank you. It's something that really moves me on a personal level.

[00:14:02.620] - Speaker 1

See, and that's the other thing I get. In singing language, it's so special to be able to have my daughter and share the extension of it because we don't speak our language as a first language, unfortunately. But my daughter and I go absolutely out of our way. Well, we've got mum still here to learn our language. It's something that we I go over the phone regularly. When she was living still at home, Sunday, all day, language day. And the opportunity to sing in language is just so delightful. I cherish it. I look forward to it.

[00:14:43.390] - Speaker 2

Now, when you're talking about educating through language as well, you have an education piece that you teach through schools. Is that something that is part of that course that you created and that you run through the education platform?

[00:14:57.000] - Speaker 1

Yeah, it's so fun. Look, When I went to this dance school, yes, it was learning dance and all types of dance. So we learned Aboriginal and Torres-Rot Islander traditional cultural dances, but we also learned tap, ballet, contemporary, jazz, modern, and folk dancing. We had Margaret Walker, who has passed, but she was Australia's leading folk dance teacher at our school, teaching us folk dances. And we would have international guests come in to teach dances from Japan, and Native American guests would come in, and this would be a constant exchange year in, year out. And then during May, we would have this thing called the Workshop. And we'd open up our doors so that people in the community who were either subscribers to the school or friends of would be invited to see what we were doing. So we would put on a performance of cultural dances and what have you. So over this five years, I learned so much. But within that, I also became the graduation, you get a diploma, an associate diploma in teaching. So the last three years or the five years, you are actual training as a teacher. So I came out of that, and I never used my teaching qualifications to teach dance.

[00:16:39.180] - Speaker 1

So I decided to, as Christine Anu, the singer, take a package selling myself as the singer, but giving them so much more once they've had me for that hour on stage. I've come away from schools where the principal and the school teachers or the department that's organised bringing me into the school have said, We weren't expecting what you brought in, but that's tipped so many boxes for things that we need covered for the year. So I teach cultural language, and then I demonstrate it through song and dance.Oh, how beautiful.So I teach them phrases. I'll say,, good morning. I'm going to teach you how to say that as well. Please., good morning. So I'll teach them what morning is,. I'll teach them what afternoon is, good, or good evening, kubil. So doing the performances is fantastic. I bring all of my knowledge from the dance, teaching, training that I had, and I haven't used it in 20 odd years. So being able to put that into a one hour show has been absolutely amazing. So I'll go into them and go into the first thing that I'll do when I look out at the crowd is wave to them, and then I'll say,.

[00:18:15.720] - Speaker 1

In a Raymond,. So I tell them, I'm Christine Anu. Good morning, I'm Christine Anu. I'm going to be performing for you today with my guitarist, Raymond. And then I go on to tell them, I'll show them morning, noon, night, and good day. I'm going to be teaching you that. And then once I've taught them the phrase, I'll ask them questions like, So if it was morning, How would you say good morning? And then they teach it back to me. So it's very interactive. How lovely. And then I'll teach them a song in Torres Strait language, and then show them videos of traditional dancing, I show them videos of myself in my career. And then we have a great, lovely, lovely time learning them, cultural songs and dances. By this point, they don't think I'm going to sing for them. The teachers are like, When are we going to hear My Island Home? And then obviously at the end, I put on a short performance for them. And it's really, really wonderful. And by the end, they'll be able to say, Good morning. How are you? My My name is, and they'll tell me their name, and then they'll know how to say thank you, Esso, and.

[00:19:37.420] - Speaker 1

Bye. Goodbye.

[00:19:38.980] - Speaker 2

What a beautiful thing to be able to walk away, to be inspired by your career, but then also to bring on board that cultural aspect that they can learn.

[00:19:48.440] - Speaker 1

Well, yeah, they get a lot more Aboriginal cultural education because we are living on the mainland of Australia. There is very rare an opportunity to have a Torres Strait Islander come into your school in New South Wales, but predominantly Queensland, yes, because that's where the Torres Strait Islands are. But it's really wonderful to be able to go into schools and for them to say, We don't get a lot of Torres Strait Island information, and it's great that you can come in and do that. And I'll say, Yep, tick onto the next. But it is. It's very rare for them to be able to concentrate on Torres Strait Islander culture because there's very limited educational things out there.

[00:20:37.950] - Speaker 2

Christine, within your own native language, which language? I was doing a bit of research, and there's two main languages, and then there's obviously many dialects. What's the name of the language that you speak?

[00:20:51.170] - Speaker 1

Okay, so the language that I speak is Kala Kau'au ya. That's my mum. Yes. And dad's language, which is, I think, what we picked up because we lived on dad's island when I was 9, 10, is Kala lago ya. So there aren't any dialects. There's just a variation in the different islands. So the language changes in different islands. I see. So my dad's is Kala lago ya, Kala kau ya. Then you have the Central Torres Strait, which has its own language, and then the Eastern Torres Strait, which is where Eddie Marbo came from. So the Eastern Torres Strait is Miriam Mir. Okay.

[00:21:31.810] - Speaker 2

So the language vary quite a lot, do you find, when you're listening to the different languages?

[00:21:39.160] - Speaker 1

So on top of that, we have Yumplatoq, which was a very new language that was created around about the purling boom in the Torres Strait because there was English-speaking people, Melanesian-speaking people. There were Japanese, Chinese, Malay, T'Maurice. So there were so many different cultures that they needed to be a common language created, and it was Yumplato. So by the time I was four, I was speaking English Yumplatoq, Kala lago ya, kala kawau ya. So four languages. And they vary in that there are certain consonants. The There might be a similarity in, say, the name for island, but it might change in other words. But strangely enough, the islands being so close together, They understand each other when they talk. But it's very, very different in the Eastern Torres Strait, a completely different language altogether. And Yumplotalk, because everyone speaks it, it's based loosely around Pslama from Solomon Islands, their language, which is called Pislamma and English. So it's got a lot of English words in there and Pislamma. And it's very similar to Papua New Guinea and Pisin.

[00:23:14.180] - Speaker 2

Okay. When I was doing some research on it, there was the two distinct variations. But then just to hear and explain that, it makes sense. It's nice to hear from I knew how it changes.

[00:23:31.300] - Speaker 1

The lovely thing is that I will go throughout places in Queensland and even the Northern Territory where Aboriginal English has seeped into the community and to the way that I guess, Australians speak within that local area. So you know how we talk about accents? Yes. But we're talking about how lingo, colloquialisms, and Things like that have seeped into the way that people in the local area speak. Like, I know I have friends who are Australian who live in Darwin who say mob and us mob and you mob. That's an Aboriginal language thing that seeped into the community. That's a great example. Deadly, apparently, is something that was a colloquially from the '70s. It was like a hipster thing, but it stayed It's made in Aboriginal language, and it's become something that is spoken, used a lot more in colloquially slang in Australia now.

[00:24:39.710] - Speaker 2

Yeah, definitely.

[00:24:41.240] - Speaker 1

Well, in Aboriginal English, when you say something's deadly, it means, yeah, that's good.

[00:24:46.600] - Speaker 2

Yes, because they've got the deadly awards. They've got so many different things.

[00:24:50.410] - Speaker 1

Yeah, exactly. We've become a lot more used to hearing it as something that's cool as opposed to venom, toxic, and may kill you.

[00:25:01.100] - Speaker 2

When you think of Australian, you think of mainland, you're thinking of spiders, all the other things which I'm terrified of.

[00:25:07.810] - Speaker 1

But if I was going to say you look deadly, you'd say that was a compliment. Yes. You look deadly today. It's like, oh, it's our cis.

[00:25:16.540] - Speaker 2

Then when you say cis in your language as well, because you do hear it when you're watching films and your things, what does that mean in that?

[00:25:26.110] - Speaker 1

It's absolutely a term of endearment. Yes. It's It's like brother. In our language, we say bala. But cis or sissy, it's a real term of endearment. It's like saying, I get you. You're cool. It's an acceptance thing.

[00:25:46.050] - Speaker 2

That's really lovely. Yes.

[00:25:47.710] - Speaker 1

I like that. We're not besties right away, but it's like saying, I accept you. You're really cool. You get us.

[00:25:59.740] - Speaker 2

You get us. It's breaking that boundary. It's like we've taken that step to... I like that, breaking the barriers. Talking about that, we had a conversation just the other day, and it was to do with music and food. For anyone that doesn't know, Christina is a fantastic cook. She always brings amazing treats to set. Always. It's amazing. She made me this sikini slice once, which had nothing I was allergic to, and it was the best thing I've ever eaten. Oh, yeah. I've never forgotten that. She looks after all my allergies.

[00:26:35.840] - Speaker 1

I hope it wasn't store-bought.

[00:26:37.640] - Speaker 2

No, you'd handmade this one because you made the sauce and you did this, and it was one of my favourite things. I tried to replicate it, but it just had to be very Good job. But we're talking about food, music, and one of the things that you love was connecting people and that connectedness and the connectedness and everything that we're talking about is that you're connecting your language with other people and sharing that. And then there's something to do with the food and the way you share the music. And what is it about connectedness to country and connectedness with people that really has so much importance for you? What does it do for you?

[00:27:19.310] - Speaker 1

I 100 % feel as though like food and the endorphins and the chemical reactions that that Food gives you just based on pure basic nourishment. Music, how it evokes emotions, right? I mean, I can be so moved by music to tears. Music has that ability to do that. I don't know, maybe not so much food. You know what I mean? Yeah. Music and words, and when you combine that together, can have the most powerful effect on somebody. And then you do that. Then you put that into the equation of a gathering of people, selected or non-selective. And then you add the equation of food. Now, food has an aroma. It's the smells. It's the sight. It's the way that people, all of All of a sudden start gelling with each other. The way that they start to feel... Food makes you feel comfortable in the way that you start relating to the next person. It changes the way that you loosen up. It loosens up your language. Which it loosens up the air in which music, food, and company, when you get that chemistry right, it is so magic that you just want to keep producing that all the time.

[00:29:01.620] - Speaker 1

Which is why places like Lazotte's in New Castle in Lambton work so well, because Brian Lazotte is such a great cook, and then he manages to bring his background of music together in this great venue with great food, great artists, and that repetition just keeps working really fantastically. Now, if I could do that, I would absolutely I do that. But I love the magic of... I love the basic chemical reaction of how all those things go together. I think if you gave me somebody that really disliked, And put them in that situation, and if it was the right type of food, the right atmos, the right music, it would turn you around from not liking a person too much to possibly going, You know what? I think I can find something about you. Maybe something about you that I can find that I like. Yeah.

[00:30:06.020] - Speaker 2

I guess it's when people let go and release that exterior.

[00:30:09.810] - Speaker 1

It evokes great conversation. And it really leaves a really great spirit in the room.

[00:30:17.480] - Speaker 2

It's a really nice way to put it, that energy and that spirit. And it's true because when you feel something, for me, I love eating, but hearing the music, there's something freeing. And it's an internal... It is like a chemical reaction on the inside, but there's something about you that just lets go a little. And I think we all tend to put walls up at different points and things. So if you did have that person in the room with you and you're pulling away your own barriers that you put up to protect yourself, then people get a little glimpse into that vulnerability and that emotion. And there's something so beautiful in that.

[00:30:57.390] - Speaker 1

Well, conversation is sharing of stories, isn't it? It's an exchange of stories, isn't it, really? It's an exchange of stories. And when you are sharing food, it's such a communal thing. You're sharing food, and with conversation, you're sharing that as well. It just works such a wonderful, wonderful magic. And I think, when I think about how early in my life that registered, I try to replicate that when I'm on stage. I know that it may not have food involved in it, but there is this thing about the sense of drawing a picture with your words, transporting the listener to a pre-told story Story, setting the precedence for the song that's about to follow. There's something quite magical about taking somebody on that journey. I love setting up. My daughter always makes fun of me and my band as It's like, How many songs are going to be in the setlist tonight? Well, it depends on how much Christine is going to talk. I think, well, take the piss all you want, but it's really a good song is even better when you can set the right tone for it with a great story.

[00:32:21.830] - Speaker 2

I think the way you do that is really quite magical because you do bring people in. You allow them that chance, where sometimes when you just... It's just that song after song. But when you do have that conversation, what a beautiful time to actually open up and share on that in a different level. And then people have that understanding, and then they're there with you on that journey. But I don't think many people can do that. I think it's a skill that you have, and there's something... When you move, and it's just a natural thing, your arms move and you tell this story, and you literally just want to walk up to the stage and just sit on the stage and just be right there with you because it's magical. I think...

[00:33:05.200] - Speaker 1

Thank you, Mel. And it always takes me back to that little girl who thought, I wonder, you know what? Maybe I can sing when dad used to make us sit around on a hot summer's night in Brisbane, as well as watching Young Talent Time, and then eventually going, you know what? When I grow up, I want to be a singer. But then not knowing how that would happen. Yeah. And then finding singing accidentally through the dancing side. I think all of these are... I don't think they're accidents in any way, shape, or form. I think that my life was supposed to follow these really wonderful twists and turns that I would need to have my foundation in dancing to go into the singing, then for that to allow me to find my way into musical theatre and on stage in rent, being like a kid in a candy store, finding that very musical to showcase myself as a singer and a dancer was the best time for me. I was about 27, 28 when I had landed that role. I remember that. I get to that role, and that's when I realised, I don't think anything happened by chance.

[00:34:29.790] - Speaker 1

I think I was meant to find the dancing before the singing. And then the storytelling. I was always afraid to be on stage as a singer because I didn't know how to bridge that distance between the microphone, the band, the words, the music, and then gauging the audience. I was on stage with Neil Murray and Paul Kelly, and just listening to their banter. I I think I had two of the best teachers in learning how to, I guess, engage with an audience, how to connect with an audience. I think I had with your stories. I think I had the best teachers through observing how these two men, watching Archie Roach do it. I know it seems like there are a lot of men, but it is. A lot of men seem to be in prime positions in the music industry in Australia, and it's I know these men that I happened to get the opportunity to learn and learn my skills, the art of being on stage.

[00:35:40.410] - Speaker 2

Yeah. And how did, from when you were saying that it was daunting in the beginning, how to do that and you were watching, how did you then piece it all together? Was it just step by step? Because some people talk about nerves. Was it nerves or was it just trying to, how does the puzzle come together to do that.

[00:36:03.660] - Speaker 1

Yeah, it's interesting because what are nerves based on? Why do we get nervous about something? And it really comes down to how prepared we are. Any athlete will tell you that. Anybody who is a professional in anything that they do in their life will tell you that nerves come from not being properly prepared for what you're about to do. And for a long time, I really didn't feel like I had earned my place as a singer on stage. I hadn't had singing lessons the way that I'd gone into five years of studying dance. I hadn't lent that amount of time to being this singer. I felt that I was fluking my way into it. I was in a situation of fully, fake it till you make it. I had found my feet as a dancer, but I couldn't get the words as a singer. So it was really... That's where the nervous, ill-prepared feelings would come from. So I was afraid of my own voice. I was afraid of the words that would float on the sound of that voice. What are the strength of the words? Where's the strength of the words? Where would I find them?

[00:37:28.040] - Speaker 1

Where were they going to come from? And then I looked around me at all of this wonderful life that I immersed myself in for the past five years, being in the marches and the rallies, listening to such strong activists in the community, being immersed, and being able to be around them in the community at all of these times. I started to see how I'd accumulated and amassed such an amazing life of experiences that the words were there. I just needed to give them ignition. I needed to set them alight. I needed to find the fire in my own belly as a singer. And that would come eventually. And I guess that was when motherhood happened. And then I realised that I was the sole person in this one little person's universe. Imagine that. Imagine a little baby going, I rely I on you for everything in my life, to change them, to bat them, to protect them, to provide for them. That role was scary. I'm your mum, I'm your universe, and that person needs to become a warrior. And I needed to find those warriors in my life that have been giants, that have allowed to open doors for me to even be doing what I'm doing and to have the privilege of being this person's mother.

[00:39:12.380] - Speaker 1

It changed my whole way of thinking. Based on that alone, I realised that being Quiam's mum, I had to find my voice. And that voice, when I found it, would mean that he would be able to be the best version of who he is. And so that I could be the best version of who I am based on all of that.

[00:39:34.540] - Speaker 2

Nice. It's nice to hear this. That's an emotional pie, seeing. But what a beautiful gift that you finding your own strength by giving your strength to somebody else to support them.

[00:39:48.400] - Speaker 1

It's amazing because, well, at this point, I wasn't expecting that I would be a single mum, but I think I became I became like a fierce warrior. I stood for everything and no bullshit. I really did. I felt when there was a little bit of... I'd feel when there was chauvinistic attitudes around me and I'd speak against it. I'd say to people, I'd call a meeting and I'd say, I realise that I'm predominantly working with men, that this is how I want it to work for me. And I got known for that. But I also built my group of My family of who I'd work with. And I'd hold on to that family because before we were teaching cultural protocol to organisations that we do now, I was doing it long before that It has become a thing now. I was holding on to non-indigenous employees for long enough because they had learned about my culture and learned about our ways. And I wanted to hold on to that as much as I could. And that would mean that by default, my son would be protected by people that I was working with because they would know the rights and wrongs of what to do for my children.

[00:41:32.950] - Speaker 2

Wow. I think that's strength that you've shown through that and just be able to create that environment. It's just so empowering for you, your children, to be able to grow up where someone's created that safe space for them. And that doesn't happen for everyone all the time. But the fact that you do that once, they remember that that gets passed down. And then so many things in the future come because you found your voice in that moment.

[00:42:05.280] - Speaker 1

Absolutely. I think that for children, I don't think I would have fussed too much about, Hey, I don't stand for this, or I wouldn't have stood up for myself like the way I do. But I always say to my kids, I never found my voice until much later when I felt that things weren't right. I never spoke up for myself. But as soon as I had my children and I spoke up because it's a world that I would need to leave a legacy for them, a world that they'd have to inherit. What does it look like? It means it looks like this. Stick up for yourself. Stand up for yourself. If you see that something's right, if you see a woman is not being treated right, if you see that somebody is being racist to you, speak up. And also, do not stand for bullying anywhere.

[00:43:00.450] - Speaker 2

Yeah. Amazing.

[00:43:03.790] - Speaker 1

So don't make your kids.

[00:43:05.840] - Speaker 2

They're also humans.

[00:43:06.960] - Speaker 1

They're also humans. And respect the elderly. Give the elderly time. And my kids are wonderful with my mum. The first thing that they do when we go home for Christmas to see my mum, when we do, is a good whole couple of days with grandma before they go off and knocking around with their cousins. Yeah. And because they're cousins who live locally, not out of choice, but you take what you have around you for granted. And they don't... Because they see grandma all the time. So it's not It's important to them. Where's your kids are like? My kids are like, get on the ground, ground them out for a couple of days. She gets sick of them anyway after a couple of days.

[00:43:56.240] - Speaker 2

They're always like, Yeah, I'm ready for my afternoon nap. Thanks.

[00:43:59.460] - Speaker 1

Yeah. Yeah. Didn't you just get up? Yeah.

[00:44:03.510] - Speaker 2

But I do think that elderly have so many stories that we learn from.

[00:44:09.890] - Speaker 1

And they're so willing to tell them. They just want company. And I think that with dad having passed away, mum doesn't have her regular... Even though they used to quarrel every five minutes. But they were companions. Yes. And she had Like that. They would get up and have their morning cup of tea, their breakfast, and then they'd have their 10:00 card game. And then that would go into lunch or whatever it would be, doctor's appointments and what have you. But they do love a bit of opportunity to catch up and outcome the stories. They've got so many stories to tell. And as time goes on, there are more stories to tell. But you know what? We're so busy See with our lives that we are forgetting to sit down and listen to the old ones. They're a living library. My kids are aware of this. They're a living library. Once they're gone, the library is gone. Yeah.

[00:45:15.230] - Speaker 2

I think one thing coming out of COVID that was a real blessing is just slowing down and having the time for these conversations without going, Oh, well, got to go. I've got to be here. I was chatting to my grandma We chat all the time, but we were having conversations at least every second day, if not every day. Sometimes it's the same story, and other times it's different stories. I still love it all the same, and I would never want to rush. But when you've got work, are you doing something? It's like, Okay, well, I've got this window or I've got that. And just not having to rush. And even catching up with one person, it's that quality time and that real one on one where you can share a story.

[00:45:59.110] - Speaker 1

And it's with the elderly. I find the quality time is there. My kids will come away saying, hands down, that it is a good laugh. It is an assured belly laugh, and they are absolutely 100 % certain that Grandma has probably told them a thing or two that she probably wouldn't have shared with the other grandchildren. They probably get and shared things with us that she hasn't necessarily told us ask before. So there's always that generational skip where they've got such a beautiful relationship compared to the ones that they have with their parents.

[00:46:43.220] - Speaker 2

I think as parents, not that I am one, but from what I see is that they need to be the disciplinarian to create that environment, whereas the grandparents have been there and done that, and they're just a bit more like, it all works out in the end, and they're happy to throw the cheeky stories in. There's more of a freeing relationship, whereas as a parent, with my parents, I don't think that parental relationship ever dies because it's that looking... It's that dimension of what it is. But with the grandparent, it's this sense of freedom in the conversation. And there's a bit like, you'll be right, I won't tell.

[00:47:22.830] - Speaker 1

I find my parents are so much more accepting of the world and how It's changed. Maybe not like that for a lot of people in their generation, but for my parents, a lot more accepting of the way that the world is that their grandchildren live in compared to how it would have been for when we were growing up. What are you listening to that for? It was, don't get up. If you go out and don't do drugs and don't do alcohol. But there's so much more forgiving with the kids vaping and the pronouns and same-sex marriage and how the world is for our children now. There's so much more, I find, accommodating and accepting of the change in the world than the world that we live, that they had to bring us up in. Yeah.

[00:48:20.670] - Speaker 2

I think in today's world, acceptance is probably my favourite word, and it's accepting your sofa who you are and where you are, accepting other people, other cultures, other sex. We can all be who we are as individuals with our own uniqueness and our own special qualities, and that the world is You don't have to be one shape or form or look a particular way or be a certain way. The variation is what's beautiful. I think that, that word acceptance in today's day and age, and I think obviously there's going to be barriers to break down and break down over time, but there is so much more of it. I just hope that that just keeps pushing out and growing and that families look differently. It doesn't have to be this stereotype from 1952. That growth and evolution will keep happening, and the acceptance around that will keep growing. That's my greatest wish. It's my favourite word.

[00:49:29.800] - Speaker 1

My mum would always say, Oh, yeah. I listen to my daughter Zeepee explain to her, Zippora Senior, how things are. Oh, yeah. Matanubia kursipa, which means Which translates to, that's up to them, which translates to you do you. It's like, oh, yeah, you do you. And my daughter always and I, we always say that to each other. You do you, mum. And I always go, baby, you do you. Baby, you do you. And I think it is about there being no wrong and right way of things. And I think my earlier years of being raised in the Torres Strait, they would have been coming off the back of very strict church way of life. Yes.

[00:50:29.470] - Speaker 2

Because the influence The influence was quite large.

[00:50:31.120] - Speaker 1

The influence was quite heavy. It's heavily Christian in the Torres Strait. It is heavily about what the Bible says that things are a certain way. Being gay is frowned upon. Yet there are so many gay people in my family. I was raised by gay people. My children, whose extended family, are my gay friends who are their godparents. I was raised in the gay community. It's quite different to having been brought up in the early years of being so strict in the Torres Strait about how things were. Things were really quite, we do care what other people think. Thank you very much.

[00:51:22.490] - Speaker 2


[00:51:23.540] - Speaker 1

Mind your Ps and Qs. Yes. And yet I find myself, I've never taken the kids to Church, which is very different, opposite to my upbringing. But I did still teach them manners. You've got to have manners. If I can say that there's anything wrong about this generation is, where's your manners?

[00:51:43.870] - Speaker 2

Yeah. And I think that also comes from that respect. And sometimes when you've got respect for people, you're mindful and you do have manners and it's kindness. And I think sometimes when people just say, I've got this, I've got the right to do this, and I've got this, it doesn't cost nothing to be kind. Yeah.

[00:52:01.260] - Speaker 1

But you don't have to be rude about it.

[00:52:03.400] - Speaker 2

No, never.

[00:52:04.720] - Speaker 1

I get you're doing you, but you don't have to be rude about it.

[00:52:08.860] - Speaker 2

I wanted to go into... I was saying to earlier, you are not just a triple threat at all. You are literally like, I don't even know. I can't even put a number on it.

[00:52:22.760] - Speaker 1

I think the older I get, the triple has probably gone down to a double, maybe. No, you sing, dance, actress, radio host, and then you've done children's entertainment, theatre performer.

[00:52:36.520] - Speaker 2

In the entertainment world, there's not many people that can do everything, and you do it all and extremely, extremely well. Obviously, at different moments, there's been different things like Rent or The Matrix or Moulin Rouge. And then is there a particular moment that you just sat back and just went, Yeah, this is absolutely brilliant. Like, I've ticked the boxes. Or where do you see-To be really honest, I still don't think that all of those things is enough.

[00:53:15.890] - Speaker 1

I still think that the next great thing is probably still to come. I still think that I'm in the early stages of still quite a big, wondrous career of wonderful things. Because of the pandemic and the way that we view entertainment and can do entertainment has changed the scope of things, I think it's still opened up a whole lot of a plethora of things that we could still get involved in.

[00:53:49.550] - Speaker 2

All right, Christine, let's go. Your favourite song to perform?

[00:53:54.070] - Speaker 1

My Island Home.

[00:53:54.940] - Speaker 2

It's my favourite song to hear. Favourite song of all time?

[00:53:59.920] - Speaker 1

I want to dance with somebody. Who is one of your favourite performers of all time? Cindy Lauper.

[00:54:06.640] - Speaker 2

I like that. Favourite book of all time?

[00:54:10.500] - Speaker 1

To Kill a Mocking Bird. Nice answer.

[00:54:14.100] - Speaker 2

Favourite quote or mantra?

[00:54:15.750] - Speaker 1

I used it today, You Do You.

[00:54:18.490] - Speaker 2

I love it. Best advice you've ever been given and by whom?

[00:54:23.500] - Speaker 1

Something really impressionable. It was basically, it was about the fear of singing My Island Home. That, songs, they come from out there and they come through you and they belong out there again. So stories exist out there and then they come through you and they belong out there again. It allowed me to take something that I felt belonged to people and make it theirs again. I thought that was the best advice is that it's okay to make something yours. You are unique. You are unique in the way that you tell your story.

[00:55:08.340] - Speaker 2

I like that. Who inspires you?

[00:55:12.180] - Speaker 1

My daughter.

[00:55:16.380] - Speaker 2

I love that. You're going to make me cry again. Favourite performance you've ever done?

[00:55:23.470] - Speaker 1

Favourite would have to be the Sydney Olympics in 2000. That was the closing ceremony, the lead up to it, the performance of it, and then bundled up under a table, fast to sleep as soon as I came off stage. I was exhausted. I bet.

[00:55:39.930] - Speaker 2

Who's been your favourite interview on your radio show?

[00:55:43.060] - Speaker 1

God, I've had so many. I really have had so many. I liked Renee Gaya. That was really... Yeah, she really... Yeah, she really gave. She cried. She got tearful. Yeah, she It was marvell.

[00:56:00.870] - Speaker 2

Oh, nice. If you were to study in the future, what would you love to learn?

[00:56:07.380] - Speaker 1

I'd love to learn the field of science, and in particular, biology, like human and human anatomy, like the bio, something to do with the body.

[00:56:19.290] - Speaker 2

Oh, I like it. Your life wouldn't be the same if I had no kids. There you have it. The amazing Christina. I love it. Thank you for joining us, Christine. It's true, though. It's beautiful. I love it. Thanks for joining me for this episode of the Learning Without Limits podcast series for the Learning Lounge.

[00:56:43.560] - Speaker 1

I'm Melanie Bernicke.

[00:56:44.810] - Speaker 2

Catch you next time.

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