As a 12-year-old member of the Stolen Generation, Uncle Murray Harrison found solace by listening to music on the wireless at the Ballarat orphanage where he spent much of his childhood.
‘I particularly loved country music because there was a lot of stuff in there that I could relate to, in regards to being away from home,’ Uncle Murray says.
‘Music helped me function and understand that life is about what you make it. You can sit around and think and sook…but once I got into music, that certainly helped a lot more than alcohol did.’
Writing and singing songs about his experiences also helped the proud Wotjobaluk man share with others his story of being taken from his family to a youth prison at age 10, before being moved to the orphanage.
‘People were really able to relate to what happened,’ he says. ‘They would get emotional hearing about a 10-year-old boy being put into a dark cell, thrown on the floor like he’s nothing and who, for 60 years, couldn't sleep in a dark room. I’d wake in the middle of the night, screaming about the rotten door being locked.’
A treasured Aboriginal Elder and noted singer/song-writer, Uncle Murray has shared his story with numerous schools and colleges over the years, wanting to pass on his message that, ‘It doesn't matter where you come from, where you start, it’s where you finish. Look at me.’
And his message is not just for the Indigenous community.
‘I have people coming up to me saying, “I heard your song on the radio and it really kicked me on,” or “I saw your story in the paper and I told my friend and it really helped them as well”.
‘That’s what it’s all about,’ he says. ‘If I can help somebody this way, that'll do me.’
Watch Uncle Murray's 2020 Victorian Seniors Festival reimagined performance.