Updated: Jan 7
Shellie Morris is one of Australia’s finest Indigenous singer-songwriters, a proud Yanyuwa and Wardaman woman known for her contemporary folk music with albums titled Dharuk Gurtha, Together We Are Strong, Waiting Road and Footsteps. Shellie has collaborated with a wide array of artists such as the Black Arm Band, Brazilian artist Gilberto Gil to John Cale, Sinead O’Connor and Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu. Nominated for prestigious awards world wide including ARIA awards, 2014 NT Australian of the Year and performing in venues such as the Sydney Opera House, WOMAD NZ, Hebridean Celtic Festival, Culture 2014 in Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games Celebrations; Shellie Morris has lead an amazing life few ever dream of!
Born in Sydney Australia Shellie attended Charles Darwin University in Darwin NT, I met Shellie as a high school student when she worked in a Student Support position for Aboriginal students. Shellie was one of those people who reached the teenagers on their level while she assisted their learning. Personally I was never a student Shellie assisted during class time, but recess and lunches were often enjoyed in her company.
My first experience listening to Shellie sing was at an end of year assembly with the whole school. Shellie was invited to put on a mini concert for the students choosing an Alanis Morisset song to once again reach the students on their level followed by one of her own in language. The whole school was blown away and Shellie quickly became a school sensation; even though she wasn't a student she was one of the most popular people to know! After leaving high school I have run into Shellie occasionally and she always takes time to ask about my life taking an interest in my children and even my own hobbies in more recent times thanks to the power of social media platforms. Shellie is an inspiration to many Yolgnu People, she has worked in more than 80 Aboriginal communities across Australia; these experiences have enabled Shellie to learn more than 17 Aboriginal Languages which she uses to write her song lyrics and then travels across the world performing in many different venues with Artists from many walks of life.
Shellie's songs speak of the connection Aboriginal People have with their countries, cultures and each other. They reinforce the kinship we feel as a People and the love we have for our culture and Dreaming. Artists such as Shellie are highly celebrated within our communities for her ability to strengthen our language skills and inspiring others to sing in Yolngu Matha. Drawing upon the experiences of her own life, the disconnection and connections, her voice Shellie is used to heal our People while sharing our culture and traditions with the world. My personal favorite song is Waliwaliyangy li-Anthawirriyarra, recently I asked Shellie what the lyrics meant as a descendant of the same Borroloola People I have always had a passion for learning about my ancestors. The words of this song are about the Saltwater People Yanyuwa and their connection to land, sea, and each of the smaller islands along with the Island Country (Australia’s mainland). Combined with the resounding voices of the Borroloola Song Women, the words of this song are sung with such depth of feeling it has always touched me
Alongside her own singing and songwriting Shellie has taken time to teach many others her craft once again accessing her gift of reaching individuals at their own level. An Ambassador for the Fred Hollows Foundation. Many Yolgnu People feel a connection to Shellie as a result of her work and her community engagement across Australia. Through her connection to the more than 80 communities she has worked in, Shellie empowers the Aboriginal People and each beautiful word she sings puts another stitch in the hearts of a People who for too long have felt fractured.
Written by IWOE Advocate Jennifer.