Re-instate George Rrurrambu Burarrawanga Legacy Award annually at the NIMAs

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In 2014, organiser’s of the National Indigenous Music Awards (NIMAs) removed the award honouring *George Rrurrambu Burarrawanga (RIP), legendary Indigenous musician and lead singer of Warumpi Band.

       This is a National disgrace on moral, ethical and social justice grounds.

Prior to his death June 10 2007, a promise was made in person to George by an ALP Government Minister.  The impact of his remarkable life's work in the Indigenous music industry was to be honoured, which led to the GR Burarrawanga Award.

Since the shock removal of the award I have done everything in my power to lobby NIMA Event Manager, Music NT and Northern Territory politicians to have this decision CHANGED.

  • June 10 2017, marks the 10th Anniversary since his passing.

On 29 May 2017, I received a response from Chief of Staff to Lauren Moss MLA, for Culture, which states:

“This office has been in touch with Music NT in relation to this matter and they advise that they are considering some form of recognition for past legends of the Aboriginal music industry, including your late husband."

"If this was to occur, the Minister hopes that it goes some way to acknowledge the significant legacy of Mr Rrurrambu.”

My reply was unequivocal:

“… no, it will not go anywhere near to acknowledging the significance of my husband's legacy.”

I respect there are many Aboriginal musicians who have made major contributions to the Indigenous music industry.

However, the notion of legendary status is surely, one where a person defies expected outcomes against the odds, has modeled positivity and gained national and world recognition for imparting and sharing knowledge; in the case of George Rrurrambu his ability to instill pride and dignity amongst Indigenous people while simultaneously pursuing understanding of Australia’s Indigenous cultures and ongoing disadvantage with the wider community through music.

George Rrurrambu personified these qualities and much more. His “front-man” style hypnotised audiences at a time when mainstream music brokers were undoubtedly disinterested in Aboriginal music and bands.

“George Rrurrambu was their (Warumpi Band) trump card. The man was a true star. Onstage, you couldn’t take your eyes off him; on record, he was an imposing presence. Simply put, he was one of the best rock stars we’ve ever produced.”  ** Dave Faulkner – October 31-November 6, 2015

Rrurrambu's charisma ensured the primarily Indigenous Warumpi Band of the 1980's, whose songs came to the world in several different Indigenous languages along with English would blast open padlocked gates into the Australian music industry.  He stormed through those gates demonstrating to Indigenous musicians the time was right and the world was now ready for them to follow.  

"Warumpi Band … did pave the way for other Aboriginal musicians such as Yothu Yindi and Gurrumul, and Christine Anu . . .”  ***Alexander Bisley – Tuesday 14 April 2015

His explosive energy and passion in performances, his constant mentoring of Indigenous musicians/performers to succeed, led with an an important message and mantra:  

  Take pride and dignity in being Indigenous and teach others about our culture.

Further to his credit, post Warumpi Band, George moved on to a solo career and made the album Nerrbu (message) which is testimony to his ceaseless pursuit to educate audiences about Yolngu culture.  His commitment to working with troubled youth and work ethic was unwavering completing performance commitments even while in pain, unaware he was suffering from cancer.

During the past three years, Music NT, Event Producer of the NIMAs, Executive Officer Mark Smith, has cited various reasons for the removal of the award including "program changes", "funding issues" etc. none of which provide any real substance when the memory and legacy of George Rrurrambu is at risk of being forgotten. 

The excuses from Music NT, previous and current NT politicians unwilling to intervene in support of recognising George Rrurrambu’s legacy at the NIMAs is sadly paradoxical.  The impact and assault of “decision makers” on the lives of Aboriginal peoples was a subject he so formidably and unapologetically addressed to open up the minds of his audiences to the real Australia.

“And so, before John Howard refused to say sorry, long before Kevin Rudd’s apology, it was Blackfella/Whitefella that fired up reconciliation. . . Rrurrambu’s music and his furtive cry to “stand up and be counted” on Blackfella/Whitefella remains rousing and timeless.”  ***Alexander Bisley – Tuesday 14 April 2015

Everything about George Rrurrambu was imbued with pride and skill, from the time he appeared on stage, his dark skin donned by clothes emblazoned with the Aboriginal flag to his gravel and grace vocals; his individual stage presence captivated audiences along with an art for short sharp rhetoric on the prevalence of Aboriginal racial prejudice in Australia and how it could be overcome by understanding one another; and always offered with audacious humour.

“Rarely were words performed so convincingly and exhilaratingly as when the Womad New Plymouth hosted Indigenous Australian rocker George Rrurrambu in 2005 … the former Warumpi Band frontman interacted bracingly with the audience, singing passionately about reconciliation and togetherness, always looking the audience square in the eye.”  ***Alexander Bisley – Tuesday 14 April 2015

In life, George Rrrurrambu would not be silenced, in death we cannot afford for his memory to be silenced.

The time has now come for people at home and abroad to decide Rrurrambu’s legendary status and as you do, recall his words: 

                       Stand up and be counted … you gotta be strong!

Please sign this petition:

Have your say and show the decision makers George Rrurrambu's legacy of commitment to the power of music, culture and human kind's capacity for respecting Indigenous cultures must be upheld by honouring him with an annual award at the NIMAs.

 * See “release of name” statement by eldest daughter in First Nations Telegraph online.

** Dave Faulkner -

*** Alexander Bisley -