Why the anger still burns within Midnight Oil
MIDNIGHT Oil has always been a protest band.
Nukes, corporate greed, the monarchy, logging the rainforests, destruction of the Great Barrier Reef, warmongering and general wankerism; the Oils railed and ranted against them all for 25 years.
But the issue that came to define the band above all others was the unresolved trauma caused to indigenous Australians.
Beds Are Burning, Jimmy Sharman's Boxers, The Dead Heart and Truganini were just a few of the Oils' songs about Australia's first inhabitants.
But Saturday night, the band lands in Geelong with a host of new material on this familiar theme, a party of aboriginal artists to help sing those songs and the powerful words of 2017's Uluru Statement From The Heart as their backdrop.
Drummer Rob Hirst says the Federal Government has let the statement languish for too long.
"It needs to be enshrined in the Australian constitution," he says.
"It was presented to the people of Australia as a way forward in reconciliation and justice and truth-telling between First Nations people and everyone who's come here since. We think it's one of those foundation documents, and, in years to come, every schoolchild will know and be able to recite sections of this incredible statement, which includes the Makarrata … talks about the coming together after periods of conflict and truth-telling."
Midnight Oil always tackled uncomfortable truths. But last year's Makarrata Project album was perhaps more blunt and explicit than any material before it.
Hirst says working with Tasman Keith, Dan Sultan, Alice Skye, Jessica Mauboy, Troy Cassar-Daley and other indigenous artists not only improved the Makarrata songs but opened his band's eyes to the power and potential of outside influence.
He's inspired by the renewed interest in old-school activism on Australian streets, marked by last year's Black Lives Matter protests and this week's women's marches across Australia, but admits some frustration at the slow march to change.
"People have commented that some of the songs that we wrote 30 or 40 years ago, sadly, still have a relevance," he laments.
"A lot of folks, particularly of our generation, thought that in 2021 we wouldn't be having conversations like this - that a lot of these clear prejudices and injustices towards minority groups in this country would've long been eliminated - but that's not the case.
"We've still got such a long way to go. But it's got to be led from the top, and that's not what we're getting at the moment, so from Midnight Oil's point of view we're just part of that group of people contributing to the mighty push-back, putting the alternative view and trying to move things along a bit faster."
Originally published as Why the anger still burns within Midnight Oil