Interview: Christine Anu filled with optimism at ‘how different the world is’ for her children

Interview: Christine Anu filled with optimism at ‘how different the world is’ for her children

Christine Anu
Words by Benjamin Lamb

Christine Anu has been a staple of the music scene since 1993, delighting fans with her phenomenal voice, uplifting melodies and appearances across TV, radio and a number of festivals across the country. Now, she's a serene force, gazing towards an even greater future.

Anu’s music has perfectly encapsulated elements of her culture, most notably with her version of the Warumpi Band’s ‘My Island Home’, shifting the lyrics to reflect her engaging outlook on life.

Anu is hoping that 2022 would mark a special return to the stage for some of Australia’s greatest performers after years of delays, cancellations and border closures.

The next few months will likely provide Anu’s first major shows in quite some time, and she’s feeling a great deal of enthusiasm and anticipation for it, as long as new COVID restrictions don’t completely end the party before it’s even begun.

Read insightful, long-form Melbourne music features here.

“I’m looking forward to being connected with performing in general. I’m looking forward to seeing people’s faces and the energy in the crowd, everybody’s just wanting to be at a festival in a crowd of people who are music lovers,” Anu says.

“I’m waiting with bated breath. But you have to have a sense of optimism – that’s what music brings to us all in our lives – a sense of hope, and a sense of optimism that the world carries on regardless because of music.”

Anu’s hopefulness is a theme that carries through a great deal of Indigenous and First Nations music. Many of the festival’s performers use their melodic mediums to share stories about their upbringing, delving deep within their thoughts and feelings about their connections to their land.

“When you think about how far music goes back within each and every one of our lives – and you’ve got to go beyond that to First Nations culture – music is the way that we documented our lives, our living history,” Anu continues. “If it’s not written through storytelling, it’s all through music.

“That’s very important day-to-day, it’s part of who we are. I feel that we still need it for the same reasons. It connects us to who we are.”

There has been continuously growing controversy surrounding the date of ‘Australia Day’ – January 26 – amid criticism that celebrating the arrival of British settlers is deeply offensive to many First Nations people.

Anu hopes that with continued attention and education, a more informed conversation can take place and a more diverse Australian community can be celebrated.

“It’s the 26th of January for as long as it’s been a day that commemorates the colonisation of the country, when Australia became a community,” she says.

“It’s been that day that we’re able to bring forward the opportunity to talk about the existence of First Nations people, the existence of who we are, and where we are.

“So, it’s been a way of shining a light and identifying each and every one of us around the language groups across the country, Torres Strait right through to all First Nations people around Australia.

“It’s that opportunity, I feel, that is the highlighted moment where we can all talk about the individual language groups, the connection of country, and how we can share what that is to the wider community. That’s been what the 26th of January has been about for me, that opportunity to celebrate, continue the conversation, bring more people into the fray, whether it be people next door to where you live, or people within your own community.”

While momentous progress is still required on a range of issues important to Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander culture, Anu believes the future for her children is heading in the right direction.

“I look at my youngest, who is turning 20 this year, and I just think about how different the world is to her. To her generation; culture, family, and community has always been inclusive in everything that they’ve done.

“It’s a very different world to where I grew up. I’m in Rockhampton with my mom, and the Rockhampton I grew up in compared to the Rockhampton today is the same in some areas, but it’s very different as well. The young people live in a very different experience to the one that I did.

“It’s great because they have learned from us, and they are going to make this a better place because of that. So you’re taking one conversation from the last generation and making it that little bit better.”

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