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| BNE November/December 2016



find their voice


eb Suckling (

pictured right

) was involved in

a number of community music projects –

songwriting with long-term homeless people at

Roma House in Spring Hill and with communities in the

mining rich region of southern Queensland’s Surat Basin

– when she first thought of telling the stories of women

whose partners had served in conflict.

“It’s something you rarely hear about and songwriting

is an excellent platform to help people tell their personal

stories. The Anzac story is such a part of the fabric of

our country and I really wanted to look into the stories

around the women and the families,” she says.

For the next two years Deb and a small band of

Queensland songwriters embarked on an extraordinary

journey across the state to hear those stories from women

whose partners have served in the military for more than

60 years, from WWII to the present day. They travelled

to towns such as Chinchilla and Goomboorian, cities

such as Cairns and Roma, speaking to more than 100

women aged from 25 to 104.

“They all had different backgrounds and experiences

but their stories have similar themes of love, loss, upheaval

through all sorts of deployments through the Pacific, Asia

and the Middle East, of fear for their partners while they

are away and sometimes anger for the way their partners

have been treated when they get home, or suffering

through their partner’s PTSD (and their children’s PTSD

when it is passed on), but also their strength in raising

their children – often on their own,” Deb says.

One song, ‘Daddy is bulletroof’ was written with

two children in Dalby, Jack and Lillee Yewsang, when

they were 8 and 10. Their Dad had served in seven

deployments in the Middle East and was away at the

time the song was written so it talks about how they feel

about him coming home. They later performed the song

in Sydney and their Dad came home from Afghanistan

to hear it.

“The women opened their hearts and bared their souls.

Most of the time we would write with them on the spot,

sitting down over a cup of tea and working together on

lyrics that best suited their story and finding out the

musical styles they liked. It was a very emotional process.

There have been lots of tears, laughs, hugs and long-term

relationships have been built.”

Deb and her collaborators wanted to share the stories

to raise awareness and understanding of the commitment

and sacrifices of the soldier’s wives and their families and

they received assistance from the Anzac Centenary Arts

and Culture Fund so they could record the songs and

eventually tour regional areas of Queensland to perform

them. They have also performed in Sydney and Canberra

and now there are plans to extend the project interstate

and tour nationally. In the meantime their first album

The Soldier’s Wife

is available on iTunes.

Deb Suckling and her band of songwriters Roz

Pappalardo, Jackie Marshall, Emma Bosworth, Lydia

Fairhall, Kristy Apps and Melinda J. Wells come together

again to perform the songs from The Soldier’s Wife

project on Remembrance Day and it’s perhaps fitting that

on 11 November we, too, pause to hear their stories.

The Soldier’s Wife

, Old Museum, Bowen Hills, 11

November. Tickets $33.50. See


on festival screen

From the boisterous, wildly colourful and loud Indian film

Parched (below)

to the slow-burn tension of

Personal Shopper

, a thriller from French director

Olivier Assayas and starring Kristen Stewart, women are at the heart of some

of the best films in this year’s selection for the Brisbane Asia Pacific Film

Festival (BAPFF). Another is the documentary


, by Brisbane-based film-

maker Douglas Watkin who charts the journey of Dubbo-born ballerina

Ella Havelka as she becomes the first Indigenous dancer to be invited to join

the Australian Ballet Company. This is just a smidgin of the diversity in the

program of more than 80 feature films, documentaries, shorts and cinema

classics which includes many award-winners on the international film festival

circuit. A restored copy of 1970s Australian classic

Storm Boy

, adapted from

the Colin Thiele novel, will also be screened.

BAPFF, from 23 November to 4 December 2016, various locations.