• Yothu Yindi & The Treaty Project celebrate more than 25 years since iconic hit Treaty was released. (Bryce Noakes)Source: Bryce Noakes
One of Australia's most iconic bands has reminded the nation that the time for Treaty is now.
Laura Morelli

17 Jan 2018 - 5:48 PM  UPDATED 18 Jan 2018 - 2:07 PM

More than 25 years ago, one of Australia's most important protest songs was released. 

It was the first song to hit the mainstream music market in any Aboriginal Australian language — that being Yolngu-Matha. 

That song was 'Treaty'. 

To celebrate the song's quarter of a century, Yothu Yindi and the Treaty Project headlined a stellar Indigenous line-up at Sydney's Enmore Theatre.

Through showcasing old and new artists, Yothu Yindi & The Treaty Project transported an enthusiastic city crowd back to their country, Arnhem Land.

One of the founding members of Yothu Yindi, Witiyana Marika says his whole life people have been fighting for change to happen, and by sending Australia messages through music, this year that change has to happen. 

"We travelled the world and sung this song around the world for 30 years. It didn't happen yet but this time it will happen. We want the Parliament to say yes for your rights, our rights."

Dhapanbal Yunupingu is one of six daughters of the famous lead singer of Yothu Yindi, Dr M Yunupingu.

Her father and his music have always been an inspiration to her, which is why she's now trying to educate youth across the country about the importance of Treaty for Indigenous people.

"I think it's a really good opportunity for other young Indigenous Australian and Torres Strait Islanders to be able to talk about and understand what treaty is." 

Indigenous artist Yirrmal Marika also has links to the group. His grandfather was former Yothu Yindi frontman, Dr M Yunupingu, and his dad, Witiyana, is a current band member.

Yirrmal blends traditional and contemporary music to share stories from his ancestors, shed light on his homeland, culture and political views.

"Hey we're not last people, we're First People we need treaty for this country."

Arnhem Land rapper, Baker Boy, kicked off the concert with his Yolngu Matha tunes that have taken over the Australian airwaves.

"My music is all about bridging two worlds as one, and I want everyone, no matter black or white, ... [to] come together and have fun. See no colour, you know? You see it as just human beings," the 21-year-old rapper said.

"I’m trying to teach young generations to learn more languages and learn more in schools because education is power. Knowledge is important for both worlds so in order to survive we need to use our mind." 

Just last week, the rising star was announced to be supporting one of the biggest names in the hip-hop world.

"Oh my god it's crazy, just thinking about it - like he's the OG, like the actual 50 Cent... I'm really honoured to be opening his show."

In an all-Aboriginal line-up, Baker Boy will be supporting 50 Cent alongside Hip-hop duo A. B. Original, who's brutal lyrics and dope beats have been instrumental in sparking a heated debate about topical issues, such as the push to #ChangeTheDate of Australia Day and Triple J's Hottest 100. 

And it's not just the fresh prince of Arhnem land who is pumped about the upcoming show.

"All the family is really hyped up. They keep calling me nonstop and saying, 'oh my gosh, you’re actually going to meet 50 Cent, you’re going to be performing for him?' and I’m like, 'yes, yes, yes!'," he explained, as he nearly fell off his chair with excitement. 

It's safe to say when Baker Boy first heard about it, he was, like his song says, on cloud nine.

"I couldn’t sit still, I was pacing up and down, running up and down, listening to music, dancing away and it was just so cool," he exclaimed.

"It’s going to be so sick to perform before 50 Cent and also alongside big brothers A. B. Original."

On Friday evening, the cross-generational bill also saw hip-hop group The Herd break their five-year hiatus to perform with special guests Nooky and Radical Son.

In what's been described as a reimagined band to showcase fresh talent from Arnhem Land, The Treaty Project comprised the added talents of Yirrmal, Constantina Bush (aka Kamahi Djordon King), Yirrnga Yunupingu and Shane Howard of Goanna, along with Ania Reynolds and Megan Bernard.

In 1991, Yothu Yindi & the Treaty Project had a strong message to spread across Australia. The group agrees that now that very same message is stronger than ever before.

For Yirrmal, the fight won't stop until proper recognition is in place.  

"The Aboriginal people are never going to give up really, from fighting, we'll keep fighting for it until our time will come because we are getting smarter, stronger, resilient - we'll keep fighting for it."


All images were taken by photographer Bryce Noakes, check out his website here

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