‘Sing loud, break through the silence’

musical responses to the national apology to the Stolen Generations


  • Katelyn Barney The University of Queensland




Indigenous contemporary performance, music and reconciliation, race relations in Australia


On 13 February 2008 the Australian Parliament formally apologized to the members of the Stolen Generations. This was a historic moment for reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. Jackie Huggins believes that the Apology ‘generated a sense of hope, healing, forgiveness and unity’ and was the ‘first important steps towards a new national approach to reconciliation’. Music has the potential to capture this hope for reconciliation and a number of Indigenous and non-Indigenous musicians have responded to the Apology through song. This article explores how contemporary music-making intersects with discourses of reconciliation surrounding the Apology and considers the ways music underscores the hope for healing and justice for Indigenous Australians, recognition of colonial history, and relationships and collaboration between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. Drawing on Indigenous and non-Indigenous responses and using examples of songs written since the Apology and interviews with the performers, I explore the ways in which Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australian songwriters have musically expressed their responses to this powerful moment and their attempts to generate awareness and break the silence about the history of the Stolen Generations through the medium of contemporary song.

Author Biography

  • Katelyn Barney, The University of Queensland

    Katelyn Barney is Research Project Manager in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Unit at The University of Queensland. She is co-leader of the Australian Indigenous Australian Studies Learning and Teaching Network and Managing Editor of The Australian Journal of Indigenous Education.


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How to Cite

Barney, K. (2012). ‘Sing loud, break through the silence’: musical responses to the national apology to the Stolen Generations. Perfect Beat, 13(1), 69-94. https://doi.org/10.1558/prbt.v13i1.69