Yirra Yaakin Comes of Age … 21ys and Pumping!

Yirra Yaakin 21st Celebrations

Stand Tall Yirra Yaakin, you did your mob and the rest of us proud at last nights 21st celebrations. It’s been 21 years since Barking Gecko and Paul MacPhail threw caution to the wind and set up the Noongar theatre. They have, over the years, produced some wonderful work and in so doing, helped the pride of Noongar people and other Aboriginal groups, not to mention helping bridge the still enormous gap between white and black societies.

Sometimes it’s been tumultuous, sometimes it’s been smooth, nothing good is ever easy. Paul eventually left, these days running his own arts project management company (GETARTDONE) with his wife Meredith, but his heart still lies with the project he set up so many years ago. It was lovely to see Artistic Director Kyle Morrison call Paul up onto the stage for the finale, a fine token of respect for the wadjilla fella.

The event featured excerpts from various successful prodcutions over the years and brought wonderful actors, such as Kelton Pell, Kylie Farmer and Ernie Dingo (doubling as one of the MCs) to the stage. There was a fabulous introduction by the acclaimed Richard Walley and the Middar dancers, plus writer David Milroy’s Wilarra band, featuring top class musos including Lucky Oceans. Billy Court took stage twice and proved just how damn good she is, our own Billie Holiday and boy oh boy, the new musical CROWBONES & CARNIVORES, (yes, another of the incredibly talented David Milroy’s efforts), features a singer to knock the socks off everyone, I’m ashamed to say I don’t know his name, but he sounds like Nick Cave, sings magnificently (a Baritone I think) and the girls are going to fall in love with him at first sight. The talent and stage movement of this young bloke is spell binding.

Artistic Director Kyle Morrison, (a very talented, dancer, actor and didge player in his own right), unveiled the new Yirra Yaakin logo, like this theatre, it’s slick, professional and a clever modernisation of the old logo. The enthusiasm is infectious, there’s a top CEO in place and a very professional considered board. This mob are going somewhere, on the rise and that leads to the only sour note for the night – where the hell was John Day, Minster for Arts & Culture? He’s my neighbour and his car was parked at his home when we drove by after the show. In fact, where was anybody from the Government?

State Governor, Malcolm McCusker, joint Yirra Yaakin Patron did a marvellous job – a performance really, interacting with Chair Clem Rodney and the Labor Party was represented by Ben Wyatt, Shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. But most of all, Noongar culture and people were represented by a theatre group they can be justifiably proud of and so can we white fellas, which segues into Yirra Yaakin’s desperate need for a decent permanent home, and theatre.

The present government has been rabbiting on about an Aboriginal Cultural Centre and theatre down at the Elizabeth Quay precinct. Just bloody get on with it Minister Day and Premier Barnett. Tourists visit a country for culture, great buildings and natural wonders. Yirra Yaakin does culture magnificently. The banks of Derbal Yerrigan would be the perfect home for this astounding theatre company.

Meanwhile, I urge everyone interested in theatre, music and performance, to support this amazing company, the website is: www.yirrayaakin.com.au and you can become a supportive member, joining as a Koordah. You won’t regret it, your life will be richer, I promise.

Greg Ross

Postscript:    A few years back, I willingly took myself out of corporate retirement to become Marketing Manager of Yirra Yaakin, later, inaugural Partnership Manager and for a while, Joint Acting CEO with Artistic Director Kyle Morrison. My stated intention to the board, was to find a marketing manager with Aboriginal heritage, although I had no idea quite how I’d achieve my promise. One day, fate had it that Andrea Fernandez walked in the door. Game, set and match, she was perfect and eventually it was appropriate for me to fade backstage. Mind you, I do proudly stake a little claim in helping with the title of the fabulous David Milroy musical, WALTZING THE WILARRA – we were locked down in a meeting talking through David’s concept, and looking for a title. I suggested the Moon would perhaps be good in the mix somewhere and asked what the Aboriginal word was for Moon. David said his language group’s name for the full Moon was Wilarra and the next morning I rang his Pilbara mob to check the spelling. We all loved the word, it stayed.

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