The poem “Spiritual Song of the Aborigine” was written around 1978 by the late Hyllus Maris, founder of Worawa Aboriginal College in 1983.
The musical rendition of the poem was composed by Anatole Petrovich Kononewsky, an non-indigenous Australian while producing a documentary about the College in 1994 called, "Leading the Way".
Kevin Bennett produced a live rough, guide track home recording of the song in 2012 . In 2005 Kevin discovered he had Aboriginal heritage and was from the Kamilaroi tribe of Northern New South Wales and has joined the Baradine Land Council (his birthplace).
The poem has been read every morning by the students since the college was founded.
I am a child of the Dreamtime People
Part of this land, like the gnarled gumtree
I am the river, softly singing
Chanting our songs on my way to the sea
My spirit is the dust-devils
Mirages, that dance on the plain
I’m the snow, the wind and the falling rain
I’m part of the rocks and the red desert earth
Red as the blood that flows in my veins
I am eagle, crow and snake that glides
Through the rainforest that clings to the mountainside
I awakened here when the earth was new
There was emu, wombat, kangaroo
No other man of a different hue
I am this land
And this land is me
I am Australia.
Poem by Hyllus Maris.
A contemporary musical rendition of the poem has also been created.
All schools can participate by singing this song that captures the essence of the Australian inner spirit -- expressing our connection to a deeper understanding of our relationship to ourselves, each other and the land.
The “quintessential element” of the poem and the musical rendition was expressed as:
“That Aboriginal people are reaching out to others to share the spirituality of this ancient land, that they have a special relationship with Mother the Land... …the words keep returning with the musical phrase behind them, ‘I am this land, this land is me. I am Australia’. This continual confirmation of our oneness with each other and the land is the imperative.” Leigh Waters, Creative Arts and Careers Facilitator Worawa Aboriginal College.
Hyllus Maris was of Yorta Yorta and Wurundjeri (Woiworung) descent. The third of nine children, an Aboriginal rights campaigner, community worker, educator, poet and scriptwriter. She collaborated with Sonia Borg in writing a television series, Women of the Sun (1981). It won several awards including the United Nations media peace prize. Her mother, Geraldine Briggs AO was a tireless campaigner for human rights.
Worawa Aboriginal College continues to be leading the way today with the support of family members from the late Hyllus Maris. Her sister, Lois Peeler at the helm, as executive director and principal of the college. (Lois was also one of the original “Sapphires” from the movie.)
The Sydney Morning Herald, 13 January 2017 stated about Lois Peeler:
“…her driving passion has been education. Peeler is executive director and principal of Worawa Aboriginal College, near Healesville. It's a small boarding school for Indigenous girls, available to students from disadvantaged backgrounds... It's been 50 years since Peeler stood in the spotlight, commanding the attention of thousands every night as a member of the Australian singing group the Sapphires, but the poise and confidence is still well and truly there.”