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Case Studies Big hART Songs for Peace | RAF Case Study (2020)

A locally driven festival bringing together award-winning musicians with the community of Roebourne.

Songs for Peace is a professionally realised, locally driven festival bringing together award-winning musicians with the community of Roebourne and offering opportunities for music, cultural exchange and tourism in the Pilbara.

Big hART is a Project Grant Recipient, via the Regional Arts Fund as managed by Regional Arts WA.

Songs for Peace 2020 was the third annual iteration of the festival and built on the strengths of past years. The songs and community development are centred around the songwriting workshop series. September 2020 saw a prolific period of songwriting. With COVID-19 disrupting many community gatherings earlier in the year, the workshops served as a positive and socially cohesive gathering point for community.

In 2020, a stronger emphasis was placed on the song writing and recording workshops than previous years. In the months leading up to the final concert, an intensive music workshop program took place, allowing local musicians and community to develop high quality songwriting content alongside nationally recognised artists. A diverse program catered for young people, elders, families and inmates at the Roebourne Regional Prison, providing critical moments for participants to engage deeply in a creative development process and build social harmony.

With workshops led by mentors Lucky Oceans, David Hyams, Vikki Thorne and Naomi Pigram, nineteen new songs were written by community members in the weeks leading up to the concert. Eleven of these songs were recorded in Roebourne with facilitation from musician-producers David Hyams and Angus Smith.

A level of cultural strength and community pride is reflected in the four songs written in language. The six songs written in prison, particularly those contributed by the female inmates, is significant. These songs were performed with permissions and blessing by visiting artists, for example Vikki Thorne (The Waifs) and Naomi Pigram. While the disruptions COVID had caused in community in the proceeding months seemed to boost workshop attendance, the downside was that travel restrictions prevented high-profile artist Paul Kelly from attending and performing in the show. A compromise was reached that saw Kelly record a version of Senior Yindjibarndi Woman’s song ‘Hey Girl’ at home. This video, including a warm welcome from Paul to the Roebourne Community, was played during the concert’s intermission.

Exposure to and experience in the studio recording process has encouraged community songwriters to push for further publication of their songs, to record and share their stories with a wider audience. Big hART are currently exploring opportunities to increase the capacity and quality of studio recordings. Video calls, recordings and social media were used to maintain key relationships with community and artists for future projects, for instance, Paul Kelly recording a community members song in his studio at home to share. Big hART Producers also partnered with local Aboriginal media broadcaster Ngaarda Media to host a live stream of the concert on Facebook. The stream (and replay) received approx. 4800 views, attracting additional audiences, and connecting remote Aboriginal communities to the Concert.

“We need to have more meaningful conversations. Overturning stereotypes, sharing diverse and rich history and story. Let's talk about the nurturing of Aboriginal women. Let's talk about the nurturing role of grandparents. Let's talk about strength." – Michelle Adams, Yindjibarndi Woman and Songs for Peace Narrator on ABC Radio

“When a person writes a song in Roebourne, they write a song about something tragic that happened to them, and the community holds them as they do this, and they have a cathartic experience… It’s not only the song that comes out, it’s the process of writing it.” – Lucky Oceans, Songs for Peace Musical Director on ABC Radio

“I wanted to be part of it, to give me ties to the family and to reconnect, because I had been stolen generation. To find my roots is so significant.” – Lois Olney, Perth based Ngarluma Musician

This project engaged with 520 actual audience members, 4800 digital audience members, 370 actual participants and 49 actual digital participants.


  • Strengthen community well-being, cultural identity and community pride through music
  • Create high quality musical content to promote a strong confident Roebourne to the country
  • Provide whole of community opportunities, across language groups, cultures and generations
  • Increase local educational engagement of young people
  • Sustain the annual activation of Roebourne’s Cultural Centre, growing and increasing tourism ventures
  • Foster local capability and entrepreneurial tenacity, not dependence
  • Raise awareness of the incarceration rates for Indigenous young people

Applicant location: Roebourne WA

Project location: Roebourne WA

Amount of RAF Support: $28,000

Total project cost: $152,220

WA WAP2020 03 59 SFP04 John Bennett singing Courtney Mc Farland
John Bennet singing at Song for Peace, photograph by Courtney McFarland