How Hip-Hop is Helping Young Australians Find Their Culture
Reconnecting: The Collie Crew with Toby Finlayson. Image supplied by Desert Pea Media.
Toby Finlayson admits he was “full of himself” as a 21-year-old when he was fresh out of university bouncing with big ideas of changing the world.
At that time Finlayson was unaware that the world he wanted to change was in his own backyard.
A chance meeting in Sydney with Indigenous art director Matthew Priestley, took Finlayson on a journey to Priestley’s hometown of Boggabilla in northern New South Wales.
“That was the first time I had been to a remote Indigenous community and the disadvantage was pretty clear,” said Finlayson. “It was a shock to realise that Australia had these deep social issues.”
“I grew up in Sydney, in an area where there wasn't a large population of Indigenous people. As young person I wasn’t exposed to Indigenous communities until I moved to Bathurst in regional New South Wales.
Right there, back in 2002, Priestley and Finlayson planted the seed of Desert Pea Media and since then it’s grown into a national community arts organisation aimed at empowering young Indigenous people to reconnect with culture and their land, “country”.
Along the way, Desert Pea Media and the kids they mentor have picked up some notable accolades. “The Gowrie Boys” from St Teresa’s College in North Queensland recently won the urban youth category at the 2011 BUMP awards with their track “The Brotherhood” about mixing their “two worlds” of college and culture.
The Gowrie Boys latest track “We belong” and thought provoking video produced in partnership with film maker Mitch O’ Hearn, is a peek into the world of young Indigenous men at boarding school and the challenges faced when leaving.
Another project with “The Collie Crew” from Collarenebri high school in northern New South Wales led to a performance of their track “Close that gap” at the 2010 ARIA awards to a crowd of 10,000 in front of the Sydney opera house.Continued on the next page