Straight from the Strait: A Torres Strait Island musical 

Aunty Ruth Ghee remembers the requirement to attend an opera as part of her studies at the Aboriginal Centre for the Performing Arts. 

‘It was a little frustrating for me because it was in the Italian language of course. And I walked out of there thinking, you wait. I’m going to do a musical with my Dad’s language, and you’re all going to feel the same way I feel!’ 

Ruth is one of the Cultural Advisors bringing that ambition to life when ‘Straight from the Strait’ makes its World Premiere at the Brisbane Festival at the end of August.  

The musical features a harmonious celebration of traditional and contemporary music and dance to tell the extraordinary story of the Torres Strait Islander men who worked on the construction of the Mount Newman railway in the north-west of Western Australia during the late 1960s – and broke a world record in the process.  

That railway line helped to move iron ore from Mount Newman to Port Hedland,setting Australia on course for a mining resources boom. 

On 8 May 1968, the Torres Strait Islander workers achieved a Guiness World Record by laying 7 kilometres of rail track in a single day – an achievement that stands unchallenged almost six decades later. 

‘Straight from the Strait’ is about their story and the power of song that was at the heart of their remarkable achievements which have been otherwise untold. 

The musical has been developed through collaboration and consultation with the Yumpla Nerkep Foundation and Torres Strait Islander artists, Elders, and communities. The project is led by a team of First Nations creatives, performers, musicians, and cultural advisors.  

Fifteen Torres Strait, First Nations and Pasifika artists have been announced as cast members. It will be performed in Meriam Mir, Kala Lagaw Ya, Torres Strait Creole and English with English surtitles. 

‘Straight from the Strait’ is presented by Opera Queensland, Yumpla Nerkep Foundation and Queensland Performing Arts Centre, in association with the Brisbane Festival.  

The production was recently featured on ABC TV’s 7.30 Report. You can watch the story here 

Share this article…

EmailFacebookLinkedInCopy Link

You might also be interested in…