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Yarrabil Girrebbah: Singing Indigenous Language Alive

Nov 16, 2020

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers, listeners, readers are advised that the following article and podcast contains images, voices, names and stories of people who have passed.

Meet Candace Kruger.

  • Proud Kombumerri and Ngugi woman
  • Choirmaster for Yugambeh Youth Choir
  • Director of Yugambeh Youth Aboriginal Corporation
  • Head of Department for Indigenous Education -Beenleigh High School
  • 26 year Music Educator
  • Author of Yugambeh Talga – with Patricia O’Connor and Ysola Best
  • Songwriter and composer
  • PhD candidate – Griffith University
  • Yugambeh Songwoman

Heralding from the Kombumerri [Gold Coast/Southport/Nerang] and Ngughi [Moreton Island] regions, Candace Kruger has always been surrounded by those who have taught her to lead by example. Her family has played an integral role in the Kombumerri region, her father stepping out of teaching to work in Aboriginal child welfare and ATSIC, leading communities in the Torres Strait and Roma and helping the Kombumerri people in establishing themselves as corporations.

With 26 years as a music educator, choirmaster and currently Head of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Perspectives for Beenleigh High School, Candace is also the director of the Yugambeh Youth Choir, teaching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children language and culture within song.


While still in university Candace was approached by elders Patricia O’Connor and Ysola Best to go out on country and collect songs, language and memories from the regions’ elders. The task became the book, Yugambeh Talga- Music Traditions of the Yugambeh People and was the catalyst for a life now dedicated to piecing together the narratives and recollections of her people. And earning the title of Yugambeh Songwoman. A role they say was hers all along.

Singing Indigenous Language Alive is Candace’s current PhD work, focusing on the permissions and protocols for how she has worked on country with her elders and community. With hopes that her template will inspire others to do the work for their own language regions on their own country and can be adapted and replicated in a way that works for them and their communities.

“If we publish Aboriginal music – do we have permission from elders? Do we know the narrative? Do we know the storyline? Have we got it right? Are you following the correct protocols and is the community happy? Are there Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people actually learning those songs, not just non-Aboriginal people? When we sing a song alive is it being sung by the Aboriginal people that live in that region as well as being sung in schools. That’s really important. That’s that connection to your identity and the connection to the language and the land.”

Candace along with Indigenous Ethnomusicologist Lann Levinge and Isobella Kruger have composed the song for the 2021 AMEB Online Orchestra – Morning Star and Evening Star. The very first song Candace collected from Lottie Eaton at the start of her Songwoman journey, which has now found it’s true place to shine.



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