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Jarradah Gooragulli Dance of the Brolgas

“THROUGH DANCE, PROSE and music, Aboriginal people can reflect upon themselves as spirits in a wide world, like the Brolgas who travel from different countries to find a mate, helping celebrate their identity.” Kathy Mills

By Cj Fraser-Bell

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that this article contains names of someone who has died. The family has granted permission to use her name.

Mooradoop doctor Aunty Kathy Mills (nee. Kathleen Mary McGinniss OAM) is a well-known and beloved face in the Territory arts community. The Mills’ matriarch is perhaps best known for penning the unofficial anthem of Darwin, Arafura Pearl, a poem written in the 70s. It was later recorded as a song in the 80s, co-written with daughter Ali, and sung by daughters, The Mills Sisters.

Among the many pieces Aunty Kathy has written in the decades since is this story about her parents, the compound they met in, Kahlin Compound, Darwin, and the unlikely circumstances that led to them falling in love.

Jarradah Gooragulli – Dance of the Brolgas by Kathy Mills, co-written with Jada Alberts, blends storytelling, dance, music, language, cinematography, and song to tell a creation story alongside the story of two lovers.

Kingulawuy Jack McGinniss, whose mother Lucy Alyandabu was a cook at Kahlin Compound where her younger children were removed in 1918, and Keelngari Violet Wakelin, of Gurrindji/Mudburra background who was removed from Wavehill Station to Kahlin Compound.

This work weaves this true story with the Dreaming of the Dancing Brolgas, who often travel great distances to find their mate. It is being realised by a large group of collaborating artists including co-writer Jada Alberts, Frederick Copperwaite, Lena Kellie, Gary Lang, Patj Patj Janama Robert Mills and Naina Sen, along with members of the Brown’s Mart team.

“The stories passed onto us from our ancestors are ingrained in our beings, and the importance of passing on that tradition has been bestowed on me from my grandmother Kathy. It brings me great pride and strength to be able to share this very important creation story with our fellow Territorians,” says Associate Producer of the work, Carly Bancroft Mills.

“Nana Kathy is elderly, and her health is rapidly failing … This is the moment to bring her work to life, to honour her, and to celebrate her.”

The show is accompanied by an exhibition in the Brown’s Mart Courtyard of historical and artistic material relating to the work, curated by Carly and the Mills family.


Jarradah Gooragulli Dance of the Brolgas
WHEN TUE 17 – SAT 28 MAY (EXC. SUN & MON) | 7PM
AT BROWN’S MART THEATRE
COST $20-$42
INFO brownsmart.com.au

The May edition of Off The Leash featuring this article was printed on Fri 22 Apr. The Aunty Kathy passed on Sun 24 Apr, aged 86 years.

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