ACT News

Jimmy Barnes set to rock Parliament House

A Canberra duo used to performing at small gigs has been plucked from obscurity to perform at the Australian of the Year awards ceremony and concert in front of a live audience of thousands and potentially one million television viewers.

Ruth O'Brien and Damian Ashcroft will play five songs at the revamped Australia Day Eve celebration on the lawns of Parliament House, with the headline act being veteran rocker Jimmy Barnes.

Local duo Ruth O'Brien and Damian Ashcroft will play five songs at the revamped Australia Day Eve celebration on the ...
Local duo Ruth O'Brien and Damian Ashcroft will play five songs at the revamped Australia Day Eve celebration on the lawns of Parliament House. Photo: Elesa Kurtz

Samantha Jade, Nathaniel and Cyrus are also on the bill for the January 25 concert, with the festivities also including the announcement of the 2016 Australian of the Year award winners. 

Ruth, 29, and Damian, 23, both former St Mary MacKillop College students, met during their studies at the Canberra Institute of Technology and found they were kindred musical spirits with a liking for blues and soul with a contemporary edge.

Jimmy Barnes headlines the Australia Day Eve concert on the lawns of Parliament House.
Jimmy Barnes headlines the Australia Day Eve concert on the lawns of Parliament House. Photo: Wayne Taylor

They secured the Australia Day Eve gig after a soundman recommended the duo after hearing them perform at last year's ACT Inclusion Awards at Parliament House.

Both Canberrans born and bred, they had attended the Australia Day Eve concert before – in the audience – and found it slightly surreal to know they would now be up on the huge stage.

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"It's a massive opportunity," Ruth said. "I was probably the most excited I've been about a gig yet."

Ruth, who was born with the genetic disorder TAR Syndrome, said being a singer was freeing.

2016 Australian of the Year finalists l-r equality advocate David Morrison (ACT), diversity champion Catherine McGregor ...
2016 Australian of the Year finalists l-r equality advocate David Morrison (ACT), diversity champion Catherine McGregor (Queensland), social change innovator Elizabeth Broderick (NSW), conservationist Jane Hutchinson (Tasmania), youth worker Will MacGregor (Northern Territory) and medical warrior Anne Carey (Western Australia). Absent is burns surgeon Dr John Greenwood (South Australia) and barrister and human rights advocate Julian McMahon (Victoria). Photo: Supplied

"I guess that's one of the reasons I got into singing was to build more confidence and focus on what I really could do," she said.

"Physically, things can be a bit difficult or I have to find a different way of doing things. But with singing, I'm not really restricted."

Singer Samantha Jade will be performing at the Australia Day Eve concert.
Singer Samantha Jade will be performing at the Australia Day Eve concert. Photo: James Brickwood

ABC-TV will broadcast the 90-minute awards ceremony at 7.30pm on Australia Day Eve, a change from previous years when it went to air at 6pm for an hour. There will be live music before and after the ceremony.

National Australia Day Council chief executive officer Jeremy Lasek​ said the more primetime slot was likely to be a change for the better, with last year's awards ceremony watched by 460,000 viewers nationally.

Australian of the Year 2015 Rosie Batty.
Australian of the Year 2015 Rosie Batty. 

"We're really targeting a million [viewers] which will be amazing," he said.

Mr Lasek said a boost in audience numbers was also likely due to the "Rosie Batty factor" as the 2015 Australian of the Year, family violence campaigner Rosie Batty, said her final farewell to the role after speaking to thousands of Australians at hundreds of events around the nation over the last 12 months. 

"I just think she's captured the attention and the hearts of so many Australians and I think there'll be a great deal of interest in her final words as Australian of the Year before she hands on the baton to the new Australian of the Year," he said.

"She's committed herself 100 per cent and I think she's changed our nation significantly for the better.

"She's perhaps moved the issue of family and domestic violence forward a decade, just in terms of her message and her drive and her energy and her ability to speak to everyone from the prime minister to victims of domestic violence right across the country."

Gates and live music start from 5pm. The music will continue until 10.30pm. It is a free, family-friendly event. ACTION buses will run special services for the event on January 25. More details at action.act.gov.au.

To keep up with all the information on the event, visit the Australia Day website or Facebook page.