Reconciliation Week & Make Music Day

It may seem counterintuitive to talk about these two things in the same post, but since 2020 for me the two have been intertwined.

Reconciliation Week 2021
“More Than a Word, Reconciliation Takes Action”

Reconciliation Week has run annually in Australia since 1993 from the 27th of May to the 3rd of June. This is a week where we can all come together to acknowledge the atrocities of colonisation and own that this is part of our black history in Australia. It is also a week where we can celebrate and highlight the voices, stories and resilience of our First Nations Peoples.

The cover image for the 2020 "In This Together Digital Bunting Project"

features a caricature drawing of musicians Nancy Bates, who holds a ukulele, and Ryan Martin John who stands leaning over his guitar. Artwork is by Sarah Bates Stephenson and the whole image is framed words sharing the name of the project, the musicians and the artist behind the image.
The cover image of the digital bunting project created last year for Reconciliaition in the West

For the past 6 years I have had the absolute privilege to be part of the Reconciliation in the West event held annually at Tauondi Aboriginal College, this grassroots community event has grown to become a significant celebration in the Western Suburbs of Adelaide.

Last year, for obvious reasons, we were unable to go ahead with an in-person event. But amongst all the uncertainty around COVID19 I wanted to offer a way for people to still connect and celebrate, I worked with the event committee to coordinate a special digital community art project in partnership with the amazing Nancy Bates centred around the 2020 Reconciliation Week Theme “In this Together”, you can check out the video we created here with more than 100 artworks submitted by community members across SA. Alongside this we also hosted a special livestream lunchtime concert on what would have been our event date with the delightful Nathan May.

Make Music Day is an international phenomenon – it began in France in the 80s as a celebration of music on the longest day of summer, it still runs annually under the name ‘fete de la Musique’. A few years ago I was contacted by some of the team from Make Music Day in America, they wanted to inspire us Aussies to get in on the Make Music Day action. It took a few years, but in 2019 I worked with the team from Mixed Spice Creative Studios to present the first ever Make Music Day event in Adelaide. This was also where I launched the Ukulele Dream Girl for the first time. This was such an incredible event where on the coldest, longest night in Adelaide people gathered and connected through the power of music.

This time last year I found myself visiting family in Millicent on the Limestone Coast of SA, glued to the News. Protests, marches, rallies, outrage, violence. All in response to the death of George Floyd and the rise in awareness of the #BlackLivesMatter campaign. This tragedy that arrested our attention for weeks sparked across the entirety of Reconciliation Week. It brought attention to our own racial injustices here in Australia, sparked difficult conversations about how we can move forward, how we can address systemic racism and how we can take any steps towards Reconciliation.

As an ally I was heartbroken and exhausted, I cannot even comprehend what my First Nations friends would have been experiencing.

I’d spent weeks prior trying to navigate what Make Music Day could look like during 2020. How could we re-create the incredible community experience that was 2019? We were already feeling the screen-fatigue and artists had been broke for months with no gigs and minimal fall back options for work.

But artists needed a platform, community needed a reason to connect. Conversations needed to be had.

The Make Music ADL Livestream Festival was held via Facebook & Instagram on June 21st 2020

So Make Music ADL – a 8.5 hour livestream music festival was created – it was about 11 days between concept creation and delivery. I worked in partnership with Patrick Maher, Kat Coppock & Jasper Rae to connect with 20 artists who shared workshops or music performances via their social media platforms – all re-streamed via our central channels. This was a call to action, an invitation for artists to speak their mind to their communities. To encourage people to either support them or a cause they are passionate about. To connect with people through stories and songs & to address all of the collective grief that we hadn’t figured out what to do with. We began this with an Acknowledgment of Country from Heartlands, an Aboriginal Cultural program that was based in the Adelaide Hills. There was intense truth and emotion shared here and across the whole day. There was also joy, connection and hope.


I cannot thank our artists and our amazing volunteer team enough for the epic that we created together in such a short time.

Fast forward to 2021 – there have been some incremental steps forward but not quite enough, yet. This year Reconciliation in the West went ahead in person, it looked a little different due to COVID but was one of the most incredible events to date.

Reconciliation Week has just come to a close (I am writing this on June 4th) and this years theme was ‘More Than A Word – Reconciliation Takes Action’.

It’s a call to action for all Australians to move from safe to brave in the way we live, to further educate ourselves about our shared history and the incredible depth and wisdom of our First Nations people across the continent we now call Australia.

Just because the week has ended, doesn’t mean our work needs to.
RECONCILIATION IS EVERYONE’S BUSINESS. Every day. If you don’t know what to do and where to get started, then check out some of the resources developed by Reconciliation Australia – they have put together 20 actions you can take as an individual to move just a little closer towards a reconciled Australia.

2020 was a grave reminder of the importance of community connection, of empathy and understanding. Of our innate desire as humans to feel safe, understood and part of something bigger.

In 2021 we are moving back towards one another, slowly and by measured steps as we still navigate life in this post-pandemic world.

Our Make Music Day Adl team are unable to coordinate a centralised event for Monday 21st of June, but we still want to encourage people to get out and make music. So if you’re sharing music in any way, on any platform, in any South Australian location – we want to hear from you.

We want to see people gather safely to connect through the power of music and we don’t want our limited capacity in 2021 to prevent Make Music Day happening in our great state.

If you, or someone you know is sharing music somewhere publicly on June 21st – we’re inviting you to fill in this survey with your event details so we can help you promote it to our networks.

Let’s all continue to listen, learn and support one another. Let’s harness the power of creativity to build community, share stories and grow empathy and understanding.

Until next time, stay creative, stay safe and stay connected.

Much love & gratitude from the Ukulele Dream Girl.

Reconciliation Week & Make Music Day