Dr Lou Bennett AM: Jaara Nyilamum

Jaara Nyilamum


Commissioned as part of Quartet & Country, a commissioning project by the Port Fairy Spring Music Festival and its 2016-2019 Artistic Director, composer Iain Grandage, UKARIA and the Australian String Quartet.

Performed by the Australian String Quartet and Dr Lou Bennett AM
Dale Barltrop – Violin I
Francesca Hiew – Violin II
Stephen King – Viola
Sharon Grigoryan – Cello

Composed by Dr Lou Bennett AM
Arranged by Iain Grandage
Produced by Stephen Snelleman
Engineered and Mastered by Russell Thompson
Recorded at ABC Studio Adelaide
Angelina Zucco – ASQ Chief Executive
Sophie Emery – ASQ Operations Manager
Artwork – Jim Tsinganos Illustration
Art Direction – Cul-de-Sac Creative

Special thanks to Dr Lou Bennett AM for her valued support of this release.


I’d like to share with you a story from our family. Mums oldest sister Aunty Fif and cousin Wendy shared this beautiful story with me on country (Jaara Jharr), and in turn I created a song so Jaara Nyilamum’s story would be forever sung, told and learnt by future generations of Jaara.

A hundred years ago a young farmer was felling trees on Jaara Jharr. He noticed a bundle in a hollow log that came from high up in the trees. On closer inspection he found wrapped in a Djukum Djukum (possum skin cloak), a baby girl, deceased. He took the bundle to the police and after asserting this was not a homicide the police handed the bundle to the state museum and there, she stayed for 99 years in a cold steel drawer, alone. Until our family found her and repatriated her remains back to Jaara Jharr to rest amongst the treetops.

You see, our Jaara family, are born at the base, in the cavity of a tree. Not just any tree- these are birthing trees. Through our lives we have close relationships with the trees. These are our family and they do as family does; nurture, protect and comfort us. The word for bones in Dja Dja Wurrung is galk. It’s the same word for stick, branch and a general term for tree. They are us and we are them. When we die, we are placed among the treetops, we are wrapped in our Djukum Djukum and nestled safely in a hollow to gumbila (to sleep), nyernila (to listen deeply) to Djuandak Balag (our Ancestors) singing and talking in the wind. I invite you now to sit and listen to Jaara Nyilamum.

Dr Lou Bennett AM


Yorta Yorta Dja Dja Wurrung, Dr Lou Bennett AM is a former member of the internationally acclaimed trio Tiddas, and during her ten years with the band, Lou wrote a number of the group’s signature songs. Lou’s versatile work within the Arts industry over the past thirty years includes various roles as Performer, Songwriter, Musical and Artistic Director, Composer, Actor, Soundscape Designer and Academic.

Lou was a member of the Black Arm Band and was an instrumental force in the company’s transformative journey from being a one-off ‘special project’, into becoming an Indigenous performing Arts company.

Lou completed her PhD in October 2015 and her dissertation discusses the importance and relevance of Indigenous language retrieval, reclamation and regeneration through the medium of the Arts to enhance community health and well-being.

In 2017, Lou was accepted as the McKenzie Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne and was inducted onto the Victorian Women’s Honour Roll. In 2019, Lou accepted the appointment as member (AM) of the Order of Australia for her significant service to the performing arts, particularly to music, and the Indigenous community. Lou received a Westpac Research Fellowship in 2020 continuing her research project ‘Sovereign Language Rematriation Through Song Pedagogy’ in the School of Social and Political Science at the University of Melbourne.

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