Peter Garrett (left) with Mandawuy Yunupingu and Bunna Lawrie

DAY ONE       
     Friday 14th April last year was a hot and humid night. Darwin based indigenous act, Wild Water open for perennial favourites Coloured Stone at Brown’s Mart Community Arts Centre.       
     An enthusiastic audience of around 200 black and white punters danced until 3 am. Maningrida born songwriter, Colin Maxwell of the Letterstick Band, also made a guest appearance at the balmy, outdoor gig, which embodied the spirit of reconciliation.       

DAY TWO       
     The NT News front-page headline predicted a cyclone, and Saturday dawned overcast and threatening. In the stormy afternoon at the Gardens Amphitheatre, ‘DJ’ (David Jarratt) and the crew from Mighty Music were struggling to set up the PA system for the long-awaited evening concert with Regurgitator, Coloured Stone and Wild Water.       

     Kicking off early at 6 pm, the six-piece Wild Water sounded tight and looked happy despite the soggy conditions. The band's blend of funk, rock and reggae soon had the crowd dancing and singing in the rain. Political awareness and traditional roots shine through strongly in the music of singer/songwriters, Djulpa Paul McKenzie and Noeletta Young. The lyrics of their songs such as, "Arnhem Land Blues", "Indigenous Culture" and "Tribal Land" expressed their commitment to protection of the land for Aboriginal people and all other Australians.   
     Buna Lawrie sat cross-legged on the stage and began the Coloured Stone set with "Mouydjengara", a traditional whale-dreaming song of his people - the Mirning. Playing, what he described as "the oldest musical instrument on the planet" – the bundawuthada or gong stone, Buna was accompanied by the drone of Bubby Williams’ didjeridu and the wailing guitar of Corey Noll.        

     Joined by brother Duane, on drum kit, and bassist, Jon Jon Miller, Buna took the dampened throng on a trip through twenty years of his distinctive music.        

     Most of the tracks on the recently released compilation CD, "Buna Lawrie’s Best of Coloured Stone", were covered. The opening number was one of several new songs that will be featured on the band's latest album, "Rhythm of Nature".       

     Around one thousand, saturated, die-hard, young fans surged to the lip of the stage when Regurgitator appeared amongst the roadies. The security was sorely tested as crowd surfing and stage diving began with The Gurge’s opening song. Powering through a fast and furious set, the four-piece act reproduced virtually all the songs on the current album – "Unit", and included crowd-pleasers, such as, "Kung Fu Sing".        

     High energy and fun seemed the philosophy behind the band's performance, and it was not long before the body-heat in the mosh pit was generating a steady plume of steam.     

DAY THREE       
     Sunday was clear with puffy white clouds scattered across the blue sky, as I travelled the 300 kms to the Jabiluka protest camp. Arriving about 1.30 pm, the afternoon was stiflingly hot. One hundred or so campers were working on various tasks, from painting banners to building a giant lizard out of sticks. Feral girls and boys were preparing a fire to cook some large barramundi fish, which had been donated by the Mirrar people.     

At 7 pm a large contingent travelled the 15 km into Jabiru for a gig by Coloured Stone, at the Sports and Social Club. Buna Lawrie again opened with the haunting whale song to great appreciation from local Aboriginals.     

The protesters were soon leaping about to classic tunes like – "Dancing in the Moonlight", "Black Boy" and "Love is a Medicine", while country flavoured songs, including "Stay Young", even had the mineworkers bopping amicably through the audience.     

DAY FOUR       
     It may have been the anticipation of what was to come, the whining of thousands of mosquitoes, the tumultuous midnight downpour, or all three combined, but it was impossible to sleep. At 3.30 am the camp was already astir, a coffee and muesli breakfast was ready, and groups of protesters were heading down the muddy track to meet the vehicles that were to ferry them to the blockade site.     

On the roadside embankment DJ was cursing the enthusiastic, but inexperienced, volunteers as he endeavoured to get the Mighty Music PA set up in time for the dawn protest concert. Despite the unsteady current from the portable generator The Gurge launched into the first of four songs immediately blowing the foldback. Having lost drummer, Martin Lee, who had to return to Brisbane, bassist Ben Ely nursed Coloured Stone kitman, Duane Lawrie through the band’s vibrant set. Even the early hour did not deter the moshers from writhing to the uptempo "I Will Lick Your Arsehole", which singer Quan Yeomans dedicated to uranium mining. "We do apologize to all the native fauna out there", he added.     

Coloured Stone were next to grace the makeshift stage, just as the sun rose sending golden rays through the trees to light up the rugged, stone outcrop that formed the backdrop. A whistling kite launched itself from its perch at the summit.     

"Here's a song about survival and about our future", announced Buna, as the band cranked up a funky reggae feel. The screeching effects on Corey's guitar echoing the plaintive cry of the kite.       
 Peter Garrett beams at the rising sunWhen Midnight Oil appeared the whole scene was bathed in a mystical glow. Peter Garrett asked if anyone could lend him a C harp, as the rest of The Oils tuned up. "We're here in support of the musicians, citizens, indigenous people and many others out there, who are watching and listening to us now", he explained in his best political tone.   
"Dirty Washing", a new song (and one included on the recently released CD, "Redneck Wonderland") was the band's first offering. Later I asked drummer, Rob Hirst, if it was a reflection on the Northern Territory. "No", he replied, fervently, "it's in reference to a state of mind".   

After describing the mixed blessings of mining, Peter launched into "Blue Sky Mine", blowing hard on the borrowed harp. He then invited ‘an old friend’ - Mandawuy Yunupingu, and Buna Lawrie to join him on the chorus of "Big Country".     

By now the sun was well into the morning sky, and a large group of Mirrar people had joined the protesters, whose accents denoted the diverse nationalities present. Federal shadow minister for the Environment, Duncan Reed rubbed shoulders with members of a contingent from Maningrida. Even the four police officers appeared to be enjoying themselves as they videotaped the event.   
     At the conclusion of The Oils short set the microphone was handed to Mirrar elder Yvonne Margarula whose nervousness touched everyone's heart. She delivered the shortest but most poignant statement, affirming her people's opposition to the mine.   

"This is my country… Mirrar land… Jabiluka. I still say ‘No!’ My country is important for me and all my people, and we still say ‘No!’ Maybe that's all I can say… ‘No!!!’" Wild applause then erupted.   
Aboriginal activist, Jackie Katona, thanked the bands for their involvement, and told the crowd, "People have been living here in this particular area of land, and further to the south – the so-called Jabiru lease – for over 40,000 documented years, since time immemorial for our people. This land cant be destroyed!"   

Marching shoulder to shoulder, musicians, protesters, politicians, the Mirrar and their countrymen and women moved down to the Jabiluka gate. After more statements to the assembled media the crowd walked through the gap cut in the fence and defying a trespass warning entered the forbidden zone.       

As the throng finally dispersed, after the last photo opportunity, Peter Garrett was still huddled with the resident blockaders, giving them a parting pep talk…....#   

Story by Peter Dawson