In the search for an Australian sound, in which Indigenous musicianship and Western classical performance might be united, there are healthy signs of long overdue respect for Aboriginal authorship and cultural protocols.

Keyna Wilkins and Gumaroy Newman at the 2019 Australian Flute Festival. Photo © Mark Xiao

Yet there is still a long way to go. The gauntlet has been thrown down for orchestras and ensembles to make greater commitments to these composers and voices of country, in a spirit of creative harmony.


Kalkadungu man William Barton, 38, has intimately chartered the sometimes turbulent reconciliation of creative collaboration and fair attribution. Raised in Mount Isa and making his classical debut on didgeridoo with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra as a teenager in 1998, he deepened his musical cross-pollination with established composers such as the late Peter Sculthorpe. But recognition has been hard won.

“I put the same amount of hours into my instrument as any professional violinist or brass player would, a high standard of eight to 12 hours a day,” says Barton. “In early times, I’d do a Sculthorpe work, but in the program notes, they’d put ‘Sculthorpe: composer’ and his date of birth,...