• Indigenous artist Shellie Morris travels across the NT to teach the next generation of song men and women about keeping culture alive through music and stories. (NITV News)Source: NITV News
One of Australia's high profile Indigenous singers is helping Northern Territory communities pass on knowledge to children through music to keep culture alive.
Laura Morelli

7 Dec 2017 - 4:49 PM  UPDATED 7 Dec 2017 - 4:49 PM

Award-winning musician, Shellie Morris is in Borroloola, a town in the Northern Territory of Australia, running a three-week language workshop to help teach, inspire and empower the next generation of song women and men.

From the red desert to the busy city, Morris has spent the past 25 years using her voice and heartfelt music to share her skills as an Indigenous storyteller and performer. Visiting different communities around the world, she has been able to showcase how to use music as a healing tool.

Recognising a decline in the number of people performing at traditional dances, the Yanyuwa, Mara, Garrwa and Gurdanji clan groups decided to invite Morris, who has family connections, to Borroloola.

The Darwin-based composer grew up in Sydney after she was adopted by a non-Indigenous family, but returned to the Territory in 1999 to meet her biological mother and reconnect with her roots.

"Coming home to the country of my grandmother is incredibly special," Ms Morris said.

"Ngambala wiji li wunungu - together we are strong.”

Since discovering her Warduman and Yanyuwa roots, she has tirelessly worked to improve the lives of Indigenous Australians, especially in the Northern Territory.

The former NT Australian of the Year and NAIDOC artist of the year said she felt "lucky to have the opportunity to pass on knowledge through song and storytelling which is incredibly important for us as we walk in two worlds".

"It means a lot to us to keep our language and culture strong."

Morris says she has spent her time working in more than 80 different remote Aboriginal communities, where she was able to connect with locals and teach youth about the meaning of music and the power of healing. 

"Ngambala wiji li wunungu - together we are strong.”

The project currently underway in Borroloola is being facilitated by Artback NT and Malandarri Festival. Director Marlene Timothy says youngsters in the Borroloola and Robinson River community need dedicated time to learn and take over stories and songs.

"This is really important to keep that alive," Ms Timothy said.

"It means a lot to us to keep our language and culture strong."

Tucked away at the bottom of Uluru lies Mutitjulu Primary School, which is where Morris has helped a number of students learn to write poems and music about the importance of education, health and Indigenous culture. 

The school took to social media to praise the young students' hard work as they were mentored by the talented artist.

“Our juniors have written the deadliest song with Shellie Morris and it includes our Principal's favourite saying! We are so proud of all of our kids and the awesome ideas they've come up with while working with Shellie!”

Now the students of Mutitjulu School have started a new tradition by singing a song they wrote together with Morris at the start of every Assembly. 

"We are so very proud of our School Song. Thank you Shellie Morris for helping us to write such a special song, which symbolises all that we do and all that we are, at Mutitjulu School."

Jessica Mauboy on covering Barnesy, Aretha, working with Dr G and family
Pop star Jessica Mauboy talks acting, music, and growing up in a musical family with Living Black's Karla Grant.
Linda Burney uses marriage equality speech to honour her late son
Indigenous Labor MP Linda Burney dedicates heartfelt speech about Marriage Equality to her late son in Parliament.
Radical rethink of Closing the Gap required, despite some progress
Rethinking of Closing the Gap is urgently needed to put resources and power into Indigenous hands.