Agents of Change

Australian musicians have long been at the forefront of public debate, addressing concerns and issues that impact society. During the 1960s and 1970s music helped to capture and unite public sentiment at such events as the Freedom Ride for Indigenous rights and the Vietnam Moratorium March, while Helen Reddy’s anthem ‘I Am Woman’ became an international rallying cry for the Women’s Liberation movement.

Events combining social protest with popular music continued throughout the 1980s including the Stop the Drop concert organised in 1983 by passionate anti-nuclear advocates, Midnight Oil. Also performing at the concert were Goanna, whose hit single ‘Solid Rock’ tackled the contentious issue of Indigenous land rights.

Yothu Yindi and Archie Roach have been vocal advocates for Indigenous recognition and reconciliation. Their songs ‘Treaty’ and ‘Took the Children Away’ powerfully reveal the pain and enduring resilience of Australia’s First Peoples.

The Australian music community has also shown a willingness to quickly come together in aid of disaster relief efforts. The 1985 EAT (East African Tragedy) Concert was the precursor to the international Live Aid concert and similar events. Other initiatives have included Wave Aid after the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami and Sound Relief in aid of the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires.

Most recently, the threat to the nation’s live music scene has been challenged by activists such as Save Live Australia’s Music (SLAM), while the disenfranchisement of minority and migrant groups is addressed through youth engagement projects such as the Mushroom Group’s Voice for Change.


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