Emma Donovan is taking a soulful stand for BlakAustralia

Emma Donovan

Our belated PM Tony Abbott awakened a sleeping giant of First Nations activism with his “lifestyle choices” comment, severe Indigenous budget cuts and plans to close Aboriginal communities. In response, Emma Donovan & The PutBacks have brought together some very special guests to release a new 7” single reviving two deadly classics. Emma is joined by Tim Rogers of You Am I and rapper Joelistics on a version of Warumpi Band’s 1985 anthem ‘Blackfella Whitefella’ and by Archie Roach on a deep soul rendition of his late partner Ruby Hunter’s heartbreaking hit ‘Down City Streets’.

This release supports the massive grassroots movement led by SOSBLAKAUSTRALIA, an organisation dedicated to defending Aboriginal communities currently under threat of closure. Earlier this year SOSBLAKAUSTRALIA issued a worldwide call to action to stop these closures occurring. In response to this, Emma and all the artists involved have come together to declare that they stand with the Indigenous people of Australia in support of their right to self-determination on their traditional lands. The right to live on country is critical for preserving the world’s oldest surviving culture. Many communities have already suffered the trauma of forced removals in the late 60s and early 70s, so moving back to country was the best way of avoiding the dangers of larger towns including drugs, alcohol, dislocation and violence. Remote communities allow traditional culture to continue including ancient land management that have preserved the environment and its biodiversity for many millennia. All involved have donated their time free of charge and all proceeds from the record go to SOSBLAKAUSTRALIA.

‘Blackfella Whitefella’, the country rock epic written by George Rrurrambu and Neil Murray in 1985, feels more relevant than ever 30 years on. 2015 is, in so many ways, becoming a critical year in relations between Aboriginal Australia and the broader community. This song asked long ago for Australians of all colours and backgrounds to “stand up and be counted,” for all of our rights. This year the call is being answered.

Written by Archie’s wife Ruby Hunter, who passed suddenly in 2010, for his debut album, Charcoal Lane, ‘Down City Streets’ tells hard truths of Indigenous urban disadvantage. Emma and The PutBacks have put a deep, sweet soul groove under it and Emma and Archie revisit the song as a duet, sharing verses and singing the choruses together. It’s both a sad and hopeful song, mirroring Archie and Ruby’s personal journeys from struggle to security and success.

It’s also a fitting companion to ‘Blackfella Whitefella’, linking the experiences of bush and city life and a testament to the disconnection experienced when Indigenous people’s remaining links with family and country are severed. Blackfella Whitefella b/w Down City Streets is available on 7” vinyl and digital from HopeStreet Recordings from October 23rd and all proceeds from the release will be donated to SOSBLAKAUSTRALIA.


See below for more information on SOSBLAKAUSTRALIA’s campaign to protect remote communities. Though we may have a different PM, the fate of Aboriginal communities will depend on this movement urging all supporters to follow the simple words set out by the Warumpi Band to stand up and be counted. The next Global Call to Action will be taking place in cities everywhere on November 27, marking the one year anniversary since Colin Barnett announced his intention to close up to 150 Aboriginal communities in Western Australia.

twitter: @sosblakaust
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About Les Thomas 106 Articles
Narrm/Melbourne singer-songwriter and Unpaved editor