Yaama is the First Nations Community of St Matthew's Catholic Primary School, Cornubia, QLD. In 2022, one of their key projects was to write a poem for Sorry Day, which "remembers and acknowledges the mistreatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who were forcibly removed from their families and communities, which we now know as ‘The Stolen Generations’." (Reconciliation Australia website).
Catherine Connors was then the Assistant Principal Religious Education at the school and had worked closely with Yaama for a few years. In October of 2022 the families got together to share their stories. Catherine tied them together in a poem and sent it off to me, asking if there was a way I could turn it from poem to song.
On December 13, in a quiet moment, I opened the email and looked at the words . In the quiet, I was moved to tears. I picked up the guitar and within an hour, the music was written. I took the song upstairs to my wife Bernadette and sang it for her. I had tears as I sang it to her. When I was done, she had tears too. She’s a tough critic but said, “I think that’s one of your best ever”. Bernadette only found out about ten years ago that her biological father was Stolen Generation.
Between Christmas and New Year I sent it to my friend and co-producer, Drew Lane, with instructions on the arrangement. On New Year’s Day I wrote to the current Prime Minister and two previous ones, seeking permission to use their audio that you hear. When Drew and his family were here in early January, we recorded my vocal and guitar.
On Saturday, January 21, the Yaama group gathered for photos, listened to the song, then added their “We are sorrys” to the song. The photos that were taken became the focus of Bernadette’s artwork. Most of the backgrounds are her original artwork. Bernadette and I spent many hours and many tears putting the art and video together- me on the computer, Bernadette on the iPad.
Thank you, with all our heart, to Yaama for entrusting us with their story. It is one of the highest honours of my life.
Thank you to Catherine Connors for drawing the stories together in these powerful words. And thank you for supporting me and my music over many years.
To Bernadette, thank you for investing your heart and talent into this powerful work. And thank you for being our Rock.
To Drew Lane, who listened to the story and to me, and added his many gifts to "Sorry Day", thank you.
And to Bronwyn Buckley and the school community of St Matthew's, thank you for all you did to nurture this story.
Andrew Chinn, February 1, 2023.