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Standing together helps choir shine


A choir made up of teenagers living in residential care has found strength in performing a song created from the members’ shared experiences.

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The choir, called Strong in Culture, Strong in Voice, is made up of nine teenagers from diverse backgrounds who live in Department for Child Protection (DCP) residential care and have shown a strong interest in music and singing.

Mentored by DCP’s principal Aboriginal consultant residential care and musician Tony Minniecon and Ngarrindjeri singer Ellie May Lovegrove, the choir was formed in late 2021 and will debut an original song at the national CREATE Voices in Action virtual conference on April 26.

“It’s a very therapeutic approach to supporting young people who have experienced complex trauma,” Minniecon says.

“Choir members can talk about what’s going on for them in a safe environment, chat about sometimes difficult things that they don’t normally chat about, and become confident and empowered.”

Minniecon says when the choir was first formed, they held a workshop where the teenagers talked about how they see themselves, how they feel in care and what it feels like to be away from family.

Minniecon and Lovegrove used these discussions, and the words and phrases the young people expressed, to brainstorm and compose a four-verse song called “We Stand Together”.

Verse three of the song is particularly poignant:

Waking up each morning to someone new
Do you wonder what that’s like?
Do you know what it’s like to come at a price?
To be loved from 9-5

“We brought the song back to the choir and asked what they thought – the feedback was that it was exactly what they hoped for,” Minniecon says.

“They are now dedicated to rehearsing twice a week and we’ve been blown away by their talent and commitment.”

The song was recorded at a studio at St Michael’s College on March 29 and accompanied by guitar, bass and drums played by local Adelaide musicians.

Band members Mitch Rosmini, Joe Rosmini, Tony Minniecon and Travis Dragani at the choir recording session at St Michael’s College, Henley Beach.

Choir participant Monique says her life has changed thanks to being in the choir.

“The group has meant that I have connections with people I didn’t have before,” she says.

“I have got to experience and explore my own voice and skills that I didn’t know I had. I have also learnt so much about creating music.”

Fellow member Brandon says the choir gave him connection, fun and friendship: “Especially while transitioning into independent living, as it can be quite lonely.”

Ros Calley, a sanctuary practitioner at therapeutic residential care, is delighted with the life-changing outcomes of the choir.

“Some of our young people have transformed from standing in the back looking at the floor or struggling with the social responsibility required to be part of a group, to standing tall at the front and proudly singing their song and caring for each other with kindness and connection,” Calley says.

“All of our young people have developed pride in themselves and what they have accomplished, displaying increased self-advocacy, learning how to stand up and have their voices heard and validated in harmony.”

The song will be played on the first day of the CREATE Voices in Action Conference, which has a theme of “resilient, resourceful and remarkable” and aims to amplify the voices of young people and put them at the forefront of change. The biennial conference is being conducted online.

CREATE chief executive Jacqui Reed says it is the first time a young people’s choir has been part of the conference.

“The choir is so powerful, embodying the spirit of resilience that children and young people have in overcoming adversity and inspiring others to stay strong,” she says.

We Stand Together

Verse One
I’m a small town kid in a big world
Wondering how I’ve Survived

Verse two
I am who I am
Because what I’ve been through
I know that I’ll be alright

Verse three
Waking up each morning to someone new
Do you wonder what that’s like?
Do you know what it’s like to come at a price?
To be loved from 9-5

Strong is who we are
I’ll find the strength in me
Unique is who I am
I’ll find the power in me

Verse four
I’m a small kid in a big world
Can you see my light?
I will love who I am despite what I’ve been through
You just watch me shine

Stand up, Stand up and hear our voices
We have no fear when we stand together
Can you hear?
Can you hear our voices?
We are the voice for those that can’t be heard

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