Happy Australia Day aims to educate for stronger future

Golden Guitar winning singer-songwriter Luke O’Shea has always felt a responsibility to educate as well entertain – and his latest single, Happy Australia Day, links both his passions and is bound to get people talking.

Happy Australia Day, released today, August 19, attempts to link both Australia’s Indigenous and European histories by highlighting 9 significant indigenous activists and simply telling an old story from a fresh perspective.

Luke collaborated with fellow award-winning artist, Kevin Bennett, a proud Kamilaroi man, on this new single, which they hope will strike a raw nerve and inspire fellow Australians to learn more about our tumultuous past, it’s remarkable people and just why January 26 can be seen as such a divisive day.

“It’s pretty well known that for the last 30 years I have danced between two careers – one a touring singer-songwriter and the second – a high school teacher,” he said.

“The subjects I teach, music, art, religion, history and geography have always influenced and inspired me and my music – and the opportunity to share that passion and the insights gained to students and audiences around Australia – has truly given me a blessed life.”

Luke said it was known that you ‘teach best what you most need to learn’ and he wanted Australians to embrace our country’s early history.

“For me, the older I get, the more I feel a sense of loss and disappointment that we know so little about the world’s oldest living culture,” he said.

“As a history teacher I am fully aware of how little we teach of pre-European Australian history in our school curriculum. We have three lessons in Year 9 that vaguely cover the First Fleet landing at Sydney Cove (January 26, 1788) and The Black Wars that followed before brushing over the Myall Creek massacre and then quickly moving on.”

In comparison, Luke said students spent many months studying Asian, European, Middle Eastern, and US historical events.

“Never does our full focus fall back on our own incredibly rich and diverse history, which in turn leaves us all quite vague and uncomfortable with conversations and ‘radical’ movements that attempt to challenge the current status quo,” he said.

Luke and KB want listeners to, at the very least, hear and learn the names of nine iconic Indigenous people.

“We know all about Martin Luther King, Ghandi and even Mother Theresa, but little do we know of similar remarkable people right here in Australia who fought the same fights and, at times, performed the same miracles,” Luke said.

“When people hear these names highlighted in the song Happy Australia Day, it is our hope they may wish to take it one step further and learn a little about each of these people, that in turn will start to give a more comprehensive background of Australian history, but from another valuable perspective.”

The video shows footage of moments in Indigenous history, in photos, film and artworks, to educate all Australians on what came before us, so that we can better understand our present and work to shape a stronger, more compassionate, respectful and unified future.

Luke and KB hope this song and the accompanying video will start conversations across Australia, unaffiliated with any political party or social movement.

Happy Australia Day is lifted from Luke’s latest album, There In The Ochre, with the first single, Sing Me A Story, winning himself and duet partner, Lyn Bowtell, two Golden Guitars in January 2020.

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