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For Troubled Kids, Life Moves to Beat of New Drum

What Margaret River musician Qynn Beardman saw three years ago when he passed through Roebourne, in northwest Western Australia, was so distressing, it made him question where his own life was going.


His blessed career seemed to mean little after he had seen the tragic plight of Roebourne’s indigenous kids.

“Roebourne had had a bad reputation for a long time,” Beardman said. “It had a lot of drug and alcohol issues, and meth had made it to town. It was not going to be a pretty outcome for the kids with no prospects.”

Beardman, 44, who is part-indigenous himself, quickly grew to like Roebourne, despite its reputation. “What the cynics don’t understand is that people have been singing songs here for 40,000 years,” he said. “And if you clap your hands twice, everyone starts dancing. We saw it as a really good way to engage the kids.”

Beardman decided the Roebourne school needed a music program that would not only help the kids cling to their culture, but also encourage them to stay in school. His model was loosely based on the Clontarf Foundation, whose football program is keeping thousands of indigenous boys in 68 schools elsewhere in Australia.

Beardman and his wife Susie put in some of their own money, and raised about $200,000 from private donors and Aboriginal corporations to build a recording studio and buy some instruments.

The program, called Boonderu, was introduced this year. The effect was instantaneous and sustained. Kids from troubled homes who previously spent less than one day a week at school stopped missing classes at all. Some were turning up early, and staying after school, to spend more time in the music room.

At school, they also got the benefits of more nutritious meals. But they had to keep their side of the bargain.

“They get into it,” Beardman said. “But they know they need to be coming to school, not being ­violent, and be a good member of class. We help them with that. There have been times when kids haven’t been great, and we’ve removed them for a week.”

Beardman is teaching, while Roebourne local Kendall Smith acts as mentor. The music is country, rock and hip-hop, with elements of indigenous culture and language included. It is a blending of two cultures, which is how Beardman wants it.

“We talk about walking in two worlds,” he said. “I tell them, you’ve got to walk in your world, but you’ve got to walk in the whitefella world too, because that’s where you live. I use the example that there are so many great white people who have come from broken homes and been successful.’’

Beardman said his initial objective was to prove it worked. His next objective was to convince governments to help fund it.

This article originally appears at:
Article taken from the following publication:
The Australian
Article submitted by:
Fred Pawle

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