It’s no secret that Aboriginal people have a mortality and suicide rate much higher than that of other Australians. A leaked report this week revealed that in The Kimberley alone suicide rates have doubled in the last five years.
It’s something Ngarrindjeri man Troy Rigney knows all too well.
His lifetime love affair with music, and playing the guitar has endured despite the many ups and downs life has thrown his way.
Like many country music singers who make their way to Tamworth, Troy Rigney has plenty of stories to tell.
However, his story is one of absolute adversity.
In 2008 Troy sadly lost his younger brother to suicide. A few years after that, he received some bad news of his own.
“Christmas Eve 2010 I was diagnosed with stage three lymphoma and it impacted my health, my energy levels, everything and my life was uncertain at the time and I didn’t want to play music. I hardly picked up the guitar at all,” he tells The Point.
Troy not only had to fight for his physical health, but his mental health suffered too, as he underwent intensive chemotherapy treatment.
“I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to play music, I was concentrating on something else, getting myself well and trying to put on a strong and brave front for my family,” he says.
“The hardest part about battling cancer is not knowing whether you’ll kick the bucket and go to the boneyard, it’s watching your family watch you go through it; so you have to find that strength to get yourself well.”
However in a double blow, just as he embarked on the long journey to recovery, Troy suffered the successive loss of three close family members, including his influential step-father.
“I wrote about someone who was special to me, who helped raise me, it was my step-father, he was from the Ngarrindjerri nation as well,” says Troy.
“I wrote it [the song 'Battling the Bottle'] about him, being such a big influence and raising us boys, being that father figure, you know, as we were growing up.”
Troy said watching his step-father struggle as a younger man deal with alcohol abuse was the inspiration behind the song 'Battling the Bottle'.
“My mum and him separated when I was about 27-years-old and just seeing the devastation on him through alcohol and I just had this idea and I was messing around with it and I wrote this song in about 20 minutes.
"That’s probably my baby that song, you know I‘ve written other songs, but ya know I don’t like them as much as this song, coz it means so much and it also reminds me a bit of my brother too so it pretty much relates to both of them. I try to sing it with emotion and the best I can each time. I sing my heart out when I sing it."
Further heartache strikes a sad chord
This was not the end to the tragedy that has influenced Troy’s song writing. Just as Troy’s life returned to a semblance of normality and he resumed his passion of song writing , fate would once again deal another tragic blow, with the passing of his older brother, just last year.
“The last few years have been really, really hard on myself and the family,” he says.
“The biggest impact was probably the last eight months, and I know that he’ll be looking down at me and saying, ‘Troy you need to do it’, you know he always told me, this is my brother, You know, he always encouraged me to pursue it.”
Life is full of uncertainty, not a fact lost on Troy Rigney given the trials he has faced and this just makes him more determined to pursue a career as a musician.
“You know I was a family man more so than a musician, and now that my kids are getting older and I have the support of my lovely wife I think it’s time that I just did it before it’s too late, before I miss the boat.”