The program booklet for this concert of the Canberra International Music Festival notes that, “For First Nations people, the story of the Rainbow Serpent is past, present and future (everywhere).” All three were evident in this concert of varied music and dance.

Joe Geia Joe Geia at the Canberra International Music Festival. Photo © Peter Hislop

At the top of the program was singer/songwriter and Murri man, Joe Geia. Born in Ingham, Queensland, in 1959, Geia is considered one of the most influential Indigenous figures in the development of contemporary Indigenous music. He has released many albums, worked with many contemporary music bands and individual artists, and has had an extensive international career.

For this concert, he performed four songs, including Anthem Combined, which begins with the second verse of Advance Australia Fairbefore transitioning to Yil Lull, his version of a First Nations anthem. Geia says this anthem should be recognised not only alongside the Aboriginal flag, but also alongside the national anthem, because “just as our flags fly together, so should our anthem[s]”.

His quite large backing group for...