Singalongs at the remote Amunturrngu community and neighbouring outstations in the south of the Northern Territory have become cultural celebrations observing anti-viral protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The nightly events at Mount Liebig are being enriched by senior students from the local Watiyawanu School. Teaching principal Larry Kenny said the students were supplying music and Pintupi/Luritja lyrics for the festivities.
‘The borders imposed by the coronavirus have deflected young men and women into activities that are self-enhancing and socially inspirational’, he said. ‘Our local pastor is pleased to see our adolescents develop music and dance routines for these performances. And I witnessed people observing the social distancing guidelines and amalgamating them into normal cultural meeting practices.
‘Singers and musicians were about two metres apart, microphones were cleaned between performances, and two-and-a-half metres separated family camps of just five to eight people.’
Students from Watiyawanu School had some forthright views on the pandemic and the value of the singalongs. Brendan Tilmouth, 13, said: ‘We sit apart in family groups at singalongs because of COVID-19 and social distancing. We like to come together because it is lively, and we like to sing.’
Dyson Wheeler, 17, said: ‘I’ve come back to the college because of (the) singalongs. I like going to singalongs with my family, and at the college, I can practise on the keyboard and with the guitars. At the college I can get help using computers and printing lyrics. I like to write my own songs in English, and also in Luritja.’
Rosemary Daniels, 12, said: ‘Because of the coronavirus sickness, we come together and sing and pray for people. Singing makes people happy and we love it.’
The singalongs are organised by Finke River Mission and Lutheran pastor Roderick Kantamara. Pastor Kantamara said: ‘Family groups sit apart because we follow the government’s rules about social distancing. All the Amunturrngu people come to our singalongs at the outstations to sing, pray for the world, and listen to stories from the Bible.’
Larry Kenny is principal at Mount Liebig School and Martin Bennett is from the media section of the Education Department of the Northern Territory.