Published on theMusic.com.au, Apr 2016
After walking away from WAM’s Song Of The Year awards as the first indigenous artist to claim the Grand Prize, Perth’s Beni Bjah has shone a spotlight on indigenous youth issues in WA.
The lead single and title track from his new record, Survivor, took out Best Indigenous Song as well as the main prize, and during his acceptance speech, Bjah briefly touched on youth prison incarceration rates, which he expanded on in a chat totheMusic.
“The youth incarceration rate in WA is at 48% for indigenous youth in prisons here, and by the year 2020 all prisoners Australia wide – youth and adults – every one out of two will be indigenous if we keep going this way, and I just feel like music is one of the avenues we can use to break down these barriers,” Bjah said.
He elaborated that sentiment, revealing plans to become a youth worker after completing studies at TAFE, already halfway though a Cert 4.
“Survivor itself has empowered me,” he said.
“I want to do a lot of outreach to get kids off the streets in the city and obviously I want to get out into the prison system as well and whatever I can get my hands on.
“I grew up with a lot of shame not knowing who I was or my culture, and how indigenous people were perceived in the general population. I think a lot of kids have a mixture of shame and pride when they get to their teen years and we should educate these kids in a good way so they’ve got pride at a young age and don’t get it mixed with shame, because I feel like the shame is still built into our culture.”
With a music video for the album’s second single, Holding On, about to drop, Bjah plans to tour the country, visiting regional areas in an effort to expand his efforts.
“I want to get to communities where they don’t see it much and be able to do shows for the kids and workshops with them and empower them and also just educate people.
“It’s awesome that people are ready for change and want to hear it. I think a lot of people in Australia just don’t know; once we can get the message out there and people can hear and understand what’s happened – the stolen generation wasn’t that long ago – they can see where it comes from, that my people need that connection to country and their music, and that’s why they’re sort of walking around lost.
“WA has the highest statistics in Australia, and I feel like we’re under serviced in a way, and I just want to be a voice for the minorities.”