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Angus Dawson Reflects On 'Desert Feet' Program With Stunning Photos Of Northern WA

11 April 2017 | 10:50 am | Angus Dawson

"I learnt bits and pieces of one of the dialects from one of the many language groups and was even given a skin name."

Between September and October of this year I went on tour with a company called Desert Feet and we travelled to two remote Indigenous communities with a dual purpose truck that is capable of folding out a full live performance stage and inside is a self-sustained recording studio.

These communities are thousands of kilometres from Perth (where I live) and hundreds of kilometres from the nearest town. While I was there we put on music workshops for the kids and facilitated gigs and recording for whoever wanted to do so. The days were long and pushed 40 degrees Celsius but were so amazing and filled with laughter, culture, learning (mostly on my behalf) and, of course, music. The nights were spent much the same way except when we were travelling between communities where we camped under the stars. I learnt so much about Indigenous culture that I had no idea about. I was told Dreamtime stories from the elders of the land, I learnt bits and pieces of one of the dialects from one of the many language groups and was even given a skin name. Learning the traditions and the culture was incredible and it really made me think, why aren’t we learning more about this huge part of Australia’s history and future in schools right now?

The Government wants to shut down hundreds of these communities and I can understand from an outside perspective that it might seem like a good idea, but unless you’ve experienced life from inside then I think you’re in no place to judge. The people there are happy, healthy and hugely family-oriented, more so than what I saw in neighbouring towns. One thing that blew me away was a repeated theme in so many songs that we recorded. In different languages and dialects, the lyrics ‘go home’ or ‘come home’ were everywhere. People kept writing songs about coming home to country or telling someone that they should come home to where they’re from, to learn the language and be a part of the family. This really resonated with me and, for me, solidifies why I believe that the communities and the continued support of them is so important. Here are some photos of my time there.

All photos provided by Angus Dawson.

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This photo was taken from a water hole just outside of Wangkajungka. Despite being the dry season, this remains a reliable respite from the heat up there. Before jumping in it was custom to introduce yourself to Gilla (the snake) by grabbing a rock, rubbing your scent on to it, and then throwing it into the water, so it can be familiar with who are. It was pretty cool learning stuff like this in such a stunning environment.

Most nights we’d put on a show with the local bands, pretty often my role was to fill in wherever needed (bass, guitar, drums etc). It was pretty fun learning the tunes while they were being performed, everything is pretty relaxed up there.

Just another day in the far North of WA as the sun sets over the distant hills.

As the communities are often days apart we would have to travel and camp to get between them. The camping was a real highlight in locations like this. Myself and another bloke on the tour, Richard, would often take these opportunities to test our photographic creativity. He was much better than me. This shot was taken by the Nullagine River.