Midnight Oil have released their first new song in 17 years with “Gadigal Land,” which includes features with Dan Sultan, Joel Davison, Kaleena Briggs and Bunna Lawries. The track comes ahead of the Australian rock group’s upcoming mini-album, The Makarrata Project. The mini-LP was created in support of the search for equal rights for Australia’s First Nations, while “Gadigal Land” takes the account of Australia’s First Nations and the ways in which their environment has been altered since Europeans colonized the continent.
Peter Garrett’s voice bounces over the lyrics, singing “Welcome to Gadigal Land/ Don’t you know our story?” Midnight Oil created The Makarrata Project to raise awareness about the Uluru Statement From The Heart, a statement written by more than 250 delegates from the multitude of tribes within Australia’s First Nations, asking for a “First Nations Voice” so they could be able to work alongside the Australian government and have a voice in Parliament. Midnight Oil will also be donating their share of the proceeds from the song and upcoming album to organizations supporting The Uluru Statement From the Heart, and Sony Music Entertainment Australia will also be matching any artist contributions.
Lyrics such as “We don’t need your convicts/ We don’t need your thieves/ We don’t need your squatters/ Or your emancipees” point at how Australia, as it is known today, first began as a European penal colony, with English criminals being banished to Australia beginning in 1788. Midnight Oil point out the ways in which colonial settlers had negatively affected Australia’s First Nations when they had first arrived, listing disease and weapons.
The majority of the song includes a steady drum beat amid horns, guitars whining in sync with Garrett’s lyrics. Returning with their popular sound, the track slows down while the vocals distort in a microphone and sing in a First Nations language.
“We’ve always been happy to lend our voices to those who call for racial justice, but it really feels like we’ve reached a tipping point,” Midnight Oil said in a statement. “We urge the federal government to heed the messages in the Uluru Statement From The Heart and act accordingly. Hopefully this song and The Makarrata Project mini-album we’ve created alongside our First Nations friends can help shine a bit more light on the urgent need for genuine reconciliation in this country and in many other places too.”
The Statement From The Heart asks for a voice in parliament to help “deliver meaningful constitutional recognition and reform for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.” As it currently stands, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people do not have a voice in Parliament to discuss policies which directly affect them. In 2008, Australia’s Commonwealth, State and Territory governments all agreed to commit to achieving equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in regards to health and life expectancy, however only two of the original targets are on track to be reached. By asking for a voice to Parliament, Australia’s First Nations hope that they could help “closing the gap.”
Midnight Oil have supported First Nations‘ voices since the beginning of their career, and first formed in 1972 under the name “Farm,” changing their name to Midnight Oil in 1976. In 1987 the band released Diesel and Dust, with the tracks “The Dead Heart” and “Beds Are Burning” focusing on the plight of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. While touring in support for Diesel and Dust, Midnight Oil had two indigenous bands, Warumpi Band and Gondwanaland, opening for them. The Australian rock band ceased recording in 2002 with Garrett wanting to focus on his political career, going on to win an election in 2004 and working as the Shadow Minister for Climate Change, Environment, Heritage and the Arts. In 2016, Midnight Oil reunited to tour, releasing a live album, Armistice Day, in 2017.