Ngarluma man, Patrick Churnside is passionate about preserving Aboriginal heritage and culture through performing ‘tjaabi’ or ancient songs from his homeland in the Pilbara.
During Research Week he will tell the story of his heritage using unique song, best compared to poetry that captures stories about the skill of horse-breakers, musterers, or communal life and chasing emus, shooting kangaroos and fishing with nets.
Through ‘Big hART’, Australia’s leading arts and social change organisation, these significant songs are helping drive positive change and build stronger communities in areas of need.
In this program Patrick, his family and elders deliver workshops to young Aboriginal men to help build a proud, strong culture.
“Tjaabi songs are still performed by elders today and through ‘Big hART’ we are catapulting this art form to our younger generations,” Patrick said.
The modern version of tjaabi combines the guitar with haunting lyrics that create an historical story of Roebourne and surrounds down through time.
“One song is about a man who went hunting down by the river. He tracked the emu for some time and tried to spear him, but missed and the emu ran off, so the man went hungry and was really angry. The meaning being that the desert is a harsh place for survival.
“The original tjaabi singers were men and women of great strength and power from many nations
across the Pilbara,” he said.
On stage Patrick will improvise on clapsticks and guitar, and it is his own personal grief that helps him to deliver a strong performance.
As a young man, his parents split and life took a downward turn.
“I started moving from family to family, to my aunties and nanna, and I got into a lot of bad things, drinking, drugs, and I caught the attention of police.
“Eventually I pulled my life together, got married and went to work for the shire in the mining town of Tom Price.
“When I began listening to elders and engaging in politics my life took a different route,” he said.
Today Patrick is involved in many projects that assess places, objects and Constitutional reforms associated with Aboriginal people. He is the Ngarluma Representative on the Board of Directors for the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation (MAC). The Murujuga heritage site has national and international significance with an extensive array of rock art sites, and five traditional owner groups are represented by the MAC.
Patrick is also the Pilbara representative for the Aboriginal Cultural Material Committee, and the Pilbara representative for the Referendum Council.
“I am committed to preserving our culture for future generations, being a positive role model and mentor to my family and community. I like to assist with finding solutions for young people facing issues who may be considered to be at risk,” he said.
To catch this performance be at the Research Week Marquee at the Great Court on 4 September from 1.30pm – 2.00pm.