Home' LOTL : June Contents Pecan Summer tells the story of the walk-
off from Cummeragunja mission/station
in 1939. A moment in history when the
women and the men of Yorta Yorta Nation
took their destiny into their own hands and
walked off the mission in protest of the ap-
palling conditions that had been imposed
on them. Less than a month into research-
ing the histor y of the walk-off I made
a remarkable discovery. The Aboriginal
grandparents I had never known – James
and Cissy Little – were actually part of the
story I was telling. They had carried their
first-born son Jimmy off the mission. Sud-
denly I had a past that linked up with my
present and my future and I just happened
to be writing an opera about it.
SHORT BLACK OPERA IS A NON-PROFIT COMPANY
DEDICATED TO NURTURING EMERGING INDIGENOUS
PERFORMERS. WAS IT SOMETHING YOU’D WANTED
TO CREATE FOR A LONG TIME?
Yes. I knew that there were voices going
unheard in the world of opera – through
lack of opportunity.
YOU’VE LIKENED OPERA TO CORROBOREE.
Gathering together in one place to
share a story though song, dance,
costume, make-up – this is opera
and this is ceremony.
AND JOAN SUTHERLAND AND ABBA ARE TWO
OF YOUR BIGGEST MUSICAL INFLUENCES?
It does seem an unlikely combina-
tion, I know. Dame Joan set the
benchmark for dedication and excel-
lence in the world of opera and I am
sure many readers would agree with
me that ABBA were able to do the
same in the world of popular music.
YOUR ADOPTIVE MOTHER FOUND OUT YOU WERE
A LESBIAN WHEN YOU WERE 21. WHAT WAS THAT
LIKE, GIVEN SHE WAS A BAPTIST? I READ YOU
WERE THROWN OFF THE CHURCH CHOIR BECAUSE
OF YOUR SEXUALITY.
In time both mum and dad came to ac-
cept my sexuality. Being asked to resign
my membership from Mortdale Baptist
Church was devastating at the time – but
the experience made me a stronger person
and prepared me for a life battling the in-
justice of exclusion on many fronts.
WOULD YOU AND YOUR PARTNER, TONI, GET
MARRIED IF YOU COULD?
Yes, and I get to wear the frock! (It’s a
soprano thing). And we would also really
want to backdate the certificate to reflect
the years we have been together.
IS IT TRUE THAT WHEN YOU WERE BULLIED AT
SCHOOL FOR BEING ‘A FAT ABO’, YOU CHALLENGED
YOUR BULLIES TO A FIGHT AFTER SCHOOL AND
SPENT THE REST OF THE DAY SELLING TICKETS TO
SEE THE FIGHT?!
Yes. Guilty as charged. You could say I
was an early entrepreneur.
TO QUOTE YOU: ‘FOR ABORIGINAL PEOPLE, THE ARTS
HAVE NEVER BEEN A LUXURY’ – THAT THE ARTS HAVE
BEEN INSTRUMENTAL IN SUSTAINING THE LONGEST
CONTINUING CULTURE IN THE WORLD.
I believe that the visual and performing
arts are the most powerful way by which
we may know the world and give mean-
ing to everything in it. For more than
one thousand generations Aboriginal
Australians have passed on all knowledge
of geography, the sciences, medicine and
humanity through the visual and per-
forming arts. More than a belief – this is
what I know.
DO YOU THINK THAT AUSTRALIAN ABORIGINAL
HISTORY SHOULD BE COMPULSORY IN SCHOOLS?
Yes. Start by reading Bruce Pascoe’s new
book, Dark Emu.
WHAT DO YOU THINK NEEDS TO HAPPEN TO
CHANGE THE APPALLING REALITY FOR SO MANY
INDIGENOUS PEOPLE IN AUSTRALIA?
The short answer is Land Rights. Most Aus-
tralians are yet to gain any understanding of
the devastating effects of dispossession and
the relation of this to the situation we find
ourselves in today. When our long
history is celebrated and treasured
by Australians more generally, only
then will Aboriginal children have the
chance to become the best version of
themselves. Then and only then will
we break the chains of intergenera-
Pecan Summer opens in
Adelaide on Thursday 3 July
at Her Majesty’s Theatre and
plays for 3 nights only. Tickets
on sale www.bass.net.au
PHONE & CHAT
1800 184 527
lotl.com • Lesbians On The Loose Magazine
MUSIC | FEATURE
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