Our Story - since 2006
The idea for an ‘Aboriginal Choir' was hatched by Kalamunda Zig Zag Festival organisers in the Perth Hills. The Zig Zag Festival was an institution in Kalamunda between 1983 and 2018 - a great family day of free activities and performances but also a showcase for arts projects involving different groups in the community.
In 2006 for the first time, one project focussed on Aboriginal culture. Over 13 weeks and led by Aboriginal singer/songwriters Della Rae Morrison and Jessie Lloyd, 35 people of all backgrounds, ages and abilities rehearsed six Aboriginal and TSI songs for a performance at the Festival. The large audience was very moved by the concept and the singing and the group was invited to sing at three more events on the strength of that one performance. And so the choir was born.
Weekly rehearsals and performances all over the Perth metro area have delighted audiences and enriched the lives of the singers. The grass-roots, inclusive and interactive style of the choir appeals to audiences and amongst the singers, wonderful friendships have been cultivated. Each year we collaborate with other groups in different ways, to keep the choir vibrant and full of surprises. Choir numbers expand and contract as life allows and prevents us from coming together.....especially during Covid times.
Our trips to Halls Creek in the East Kimberley over 5 years (2009 - 2013) have been life-changing for many singers. (See notes under Halls Creek Project.) Every singer has his/her favourite gigs but it's when we sense that trust and understanding is building that we feel most proud of what we do.
Our Name and Logo
According the Rose Whitehouse Noongar Dictionary, 'madjitil' means 'magical'.
We assume this is a word that has come from the English, as the words are so similar. ‘Moorna’ is the sound of movement in the bush. We translate Madjitil Moorna into ‘magical bush sounds’.
The logo features two magpies or kulbardis on a branch. As Lilly Radloff wrote in the song, ‘Answer of Love’, ‘.......Black and white can be together, free as bush birds on a branch......’ This was the inspiration behind the logo for our unique choir!
Organisationally, Madjitil Moorna became an incorporated not-for-profit organisation in 2011 and in 2014 achieved Tax Deductible Gift Recipient status in order to continue to grow with confidence.
A Management Committee of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal members oversees the working and directions of the choir. Under our Constitution, there will always be an Aboriginal Cultural Mentor on the Committee. A Choir Coordinator leads a team of volunteers handling every aspect of the management.
Having strong Aboriginal leadership and the support of many Noongar elders is the key to Madjitil Moorna’s success.
A spirit of generosity and goodwill is what drives the choir. People come together to sing, for shared learning and to build better understanding. We think of it as reconciliation in action. Volunteers run every aspect of the organization. Our professional Music Directors give their songs freely, knowing they will then have a life of their own, opening hearts and minds.
People of all beliefs are welcome to come and explore Aboriginal and TSI culture through singing a wide variety of songs. While we may sing songs that refer to painful subjects, the choir is independent of politics and religion. This is essential.
We feel privileged to sing in languages of the land and to have the approval and support of many elders as we pass on songs and knowledge of our shared history. The Noongar language is critically endangered. There are fewer than 250 fluent speakers still alive. The choir, by promoting songs in Noongar, is planting seeds for future generations.
A comment by a non-Aboriginal audience member, having sung I Am Australian/We Are One with the chorus in Noongar language:
‘I've never quite been able to shake an uncomfortable feeling about owning the identity of being Australian, even though my roots go back several generations here. I felt no right to be in this land, and ashamed of the past actions of Anglo-origin people towards the indigenous peoples, and nothing quite dislodged that discomfort. But just by participating in the song 'We Are Australian' with everyone together, for a moment I glimpsed the possibility of acceptance by and integration with the original people of this land, and a positive future together.’
Natalie Millar, student of Film, NSW, June 2011
‘This choir is the most beautiful, healing "happening" in my life!’ – Jula Mallaby, June 2015
The door is always open to new singers and visitors. Come for a cuppa from 6.30pm. We sing 7.00 – 8.30pm.