Skip to Main Content

Took the Children Away: Home

Year 8 Music

Yolgnu Boy

Djuki Mala

In 2013 the group changed their name to Djuki Mala – there isn’t a ‘ch’ sound in their language (Yolngu) and ‘dj’ is the closest so Chooky/ Djuki – this is the word used by the locals for a chook in their own language. ‘Mala’ is a word that means a group with something in common – in this case, they all dance. The change of name therefore isn’t really a change of name, but it does reflect that English is not the dancers’ first language.

Read about the group and more about Elcho Island by following this link

How is Djuki Mala’s dance style the same as traditional dance? What are other influences on their style of dance? Look at the following dance clip to see some traditional dances and use of instruments.

What instruments are most commonly used to accompany traditional dances? View DanceSite 2013 at this Link


Traditional Indigenous Music

Traditional Indigenous music varies from place to place, but still serves 3 important purposes. What are these?



The story’s right, the story’s true

I would not tell lies to you

Like the promises they didn’t keep

And how they fenced us in like sheep


Above are some of the lyrics of the first verse of Took the Children Away. Written by legendary indigenous songwriter Archie Roach, this moving song tells his story – indeed, it is the story of his people during a sorry chapter in our history, the story of the ‘Stolen Generation’.  

Traditional Musical Instruments

What are the most commonly used instruments in indigenous music? Hit or blown instruments? Why?


Song in traditional cultures in Australia also linked different tribes across the country. Watch the following clip:

  1. What is a songline? Explain how it can be interpreted as a network or a ‘dreaming track’ across the Australian landscape.
  2. In what way are songlines also a non-visual form of land map (in contrast to, for example, a visual road map)?
  3. Why were some songline tracks broken and lost? What might be the long-term effect of this on an indigenous community?

Yolngu Boy

Complete the following:

Yolngu Boy is a contemporary story about teenage boys from this part of Australia. Here are some references to read more about it. The film has an M rating.

  1. Give a brief synopsis of the plot

  2. Who composed the music?

  3. Choose one of the short musical excerpts (found under ‘music/soundsample’ on the website

  4. Identify the soundsample you have chosen

  5. Musical scores written for films are called soundtracks. They are very important to the success of a film. How has the composer given the soundtrack a contemporary sound, while maintaining the strong cultural identity?

    Comment on the use of the concepts of music in your chosen excerpt – pitch, duration, tone colour, texture, duration, dynamics and expressive techniques.

Extension Activities

Extension Ideas (choose one or all if you dare!!! Rated easiest to hardest)


  1. Biography Taskette: Archie Roach, The Warumpi Band, Gurrumul, Christina Anu are a few names among a number of legendary Australian Indigenous performers/songwriters

Choose one of the following performers, write a brief biography and find out something about their music and careers


Ruby Hunter   Kev Carmody   Jimmy Little   William Barton   Jessica Mauboy Troy Cassar-Daley   Casey Donovan   Deborah Cheetham


  1. Film Study: Watch the movie Yolngu Boy at home (You will need your parents’ permission or written permission if you are watching it at school)


  1. What does it mean for the characters to be ‘chosen for ceremony’?

  2. Why does Botj not get ‘chosen’?

  3. ‘This is the right way’. What does this mean? What is the ‘right way’ in the film?

  4. What is a songline? How does it help the boys?

  5. What is the significance of Botj singing a songline?

  6. ‘Time is not a line, it’s a circle’ – what does this mean?

Study Guide


Indigenous Music Resources -Trove

Yolngu People

The island has been inhabited by the Yolngu people for 50,000 years.

Since the 1960’s, Yolngu people have been at the centre of the fight for land rights. In the 1960’s the Yolngu people sent a petition to the Commonwealth of Australia claiming ownership of their land.

What is so significant about the petition?  View document link here