'I am Australian' ... Australia Day concert performer Jessica Mauboy. Photo: Danielle Smith
As one of the leading voices in a new generation of artists leading the Australia Day celebrations on Sunday, Jessica Mauboy calls herself a proud Australian. But who and what about Australia has inspired her in her career as an ARIA-winning singer and internationally recognised actor? Here are 10 Australian inspirations behind the story of Jessica Mauboy.
John Farnham (She will sing You're the Voice at the Australia Day concert)
He is an Aussie icon, a proud one and you really feel that from him. And that's not just through his conversation and his words but the way he sings: he is passionate and you really see that. And he's still going, he is still keeping it strong, that's what I love about him. I'm proud to have his music in my folder.
I love sport and it's a massive culture within Australia but my top favourite is rugby league. The NRL is an incredibly hard and passionate sport that allows you to get on the field and take triumph and be a leader.
She's someone who has been a big influence on my life, as an indigenous woman and as an Australian woman. She has been able to fly the flag for us internationally, but as a woman coming from a quiet and small background, she's just given us all her life and you saw that on the track and in her interviews. Seeing the woman she has become and how that opportunity given to her has allowed her to express herself – she never used to express that through her words, it was hard for her but now she just speaks out loud - it's wonderful to hear that story. At one point through music I felt I didn't know how to speak and all I could do was just sing but being out there in the crowd and being inspired by all these leaders I've been able to use my words now. They've given me courage and inspiration and that step forward to say what I think and to have an opinion.
I Am Australian
I used to sing that in choir and I remember singing the words “I am, you are, we are Australian” and I guess as an 11-year-old I didn't quite understand what those words meant until I experienced racism as a young woman in school. That definitely affected me so singing that song then, and looking at the words now, it's such an empowering song to be able to sing, to know who you are and to be that person and not have someone change you just because they want you to be a certain way. That's how I looked at the song, and identity, something I could reflect on and use for good.
Not only did the whole of Australia connect with the story but at an international level, everyone connected with the film. That was something that was very inspiring for me. Never having been political before and never having been direct about something, this was definitely one step further in closing the gap in terms of bringing communities together. And it's all different cultures: every country has a story like it. I just think culturally we have such incredible strength here in Australia and that's how I've always seen Australia.
From the dirt to the rocks to whatever has been built, there's so much emotion and soul in everything. Being able to appreciate that every day is important. I'm a bush kid, all I know is saltwater and freshwater, living on the beach and hunting and fishing. Appreciating that is something intrinsic in me.
Any kind of meat on the barbie. I think again it's that laid-back nature of having people come together and sharing stories, which leads into...
Dreamtime stories is definitely one I grew up with. My mum's family is from North Queensland and stories were a big part in passing down something special, whether it be what you eat or the way you live off the land, the things that take a big part in your life. It can be someone strumming a guitar or one of the elders wanting to tell you a story, they give something to you that is something really special to them.
I've always admired Deborah Mailman. One reason is the roles that she plays and whether or not she is trying to give a message of being an indigenous Australian woman or just being a proud, strong, feminine woman, she shares that story of being tough, although she has a soft heart, you see that through her eyes. She doesn't even have to say anything, you feel her energy. And she is very brave. I love that: she takes it to the next level of taking a stand, having a bit of a fight.
I've had the opportunity of touring and getting to some incredible regional places, from North Queensland to north of Sydney, WA, and Australia is my backyard. It's so warm and welcoming and the way you make it and that's what we are striving to do, to pass down to others. I'm so proud of the voices, of the hands, they really get into it and make it what it is. That is an influence and whatever you take from it makes us stronger and that's what it's done to me.
Jessica Mauboy will perform in the Harbour Concert series on Australia Day, from 1pm, with Samantha Jade, Justice Crew, Dami Im, Taylor Henderson and Nathaniel Willemse.
- with Bernard Zuel