Every year Moorambilla Voices creates an exciting new Australian performance work in western New South Wales, about the region, performed by children from the area.

Story Ken Eastwood

Twelve-year-old Hannah Weber may be living in drought, but she still sings her heart out. Her family, near Walgett, western New South Wales, has destocked all of their sheep, but as Hannah helps around the farm, feeding the dogs, chooks and horses, or helping her dad in the workshop, she sings songs she’s learnt, or new ones she makes up on the spot about the ancient land and the ranges around Coonabarabran. She says the rest of the family “seem to like it”.

For three years, Hannah and children like her from western New South Wales, have gone to special music and art camps put on by Moorambilla Voices. In August, the 300 or so children have a four-day ‘immersion’ and skills-building camp, and then have a second camp a month later, which culminates in three sold-out performances at Dubbo, with a 500-strong audience each time.

Founder and driver of Moorambilla Voices, the irrepressible Michelle Leonard, says she has found that despite the hardship that drought has brought to western New South Wales, the one-hour workshops she runs for 3500 children in schools and the Moorambilla camps continue to demonstrate the resilience of rural kids and the pleasure they get from singing and performing. “This year the joy in the workshops has been unparalleled,” she says. “Just the laughter – it was pure joy – even doing workshops in the middle of a dust storm. They’re loving singing." 

This story excerpt is from Issue #125

Outback Magazine: June/July 2019