Black and Deadly

Celebrating the black and deadly women of Australian music, from Fanny Cochrane Smith in the 1890s to Jessica Mauboy in the 21st century.

Music and dance are an integral part of ongoing Indigenous traditional culture. Like mainstream music, Indigenous music followed and reinterpreted international music trends like jazz, hip hop and R&B. Jazz singers Georgia Lee and her niece Wilma Reading were among the first Indigenous female artists to be recognised by the music industry and enjoyed flourishing international careers. Country music, with its themes of love, loss and land, was inspirational for award-winning singer Auriel Andrew.

Since the 1990s music mentoring programs such as Eora in Sydney, the Centre for Aboriginal Studies in Music in Adelaide and the ATSIC music college in Cairns have contributed to a dramatic increase in recording output by Indigenous women performers. Highly successful artists such as Christine Anu, the Stiff Gins and Shakaya made their start in such programs.

In the 21st century, the success of Casey Donovan and Jessica Mauboy, following their launch on Australian Idol, builds on the careers of the pioneering women artists that came before them.

Download Black and Deadly: Indigenous Women in Music timeline.

WARNING: this collection contains names, images or voices of deceased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Indigenous Australians
Indigenous musicians