Grant Opportunity


Songs of Home and Distant Isles – Indigenous Music commissions -

Historic Houses Trust was established in 1984 and operates as Sydney Living Museums. Sydney Living Museums (SLM) cares for a group of 12 of the most important historic houses, gardens and museums in NSW on behalf of the people of NSW. Our mission is to cherish, protect and share our places and stories. We bring our museums to life through a dynamic and diverse program of exhibitions, research and events such as walks, talks and tours so that our visitors can experience Sydney’s past as if they had lived it themselves.

Our values are authentic, bold, collaborative, passionate and a sociable host. We provide an outstanding program of public events, exhibition, programs and more to connect visitors (local, international, interstate) to Australian history. Our 12 sites include Hyde Park Barracks Museum ( UNESCO World Heritage listed), Museum of Sydney (site of First Government House) Vaucluse House (home of the Wentworth family) Elizabeth Bay House (home of the Macleay family) and Susannah Place Museum.

At SLM we recognise that our museums and heritage places are on Aboriginal land. We acknowledge the First Nations Peoples, the traditional custodians, and we pay respect to the Elders, past and present, and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. We understand and appreciate that Aboriginal peoples have deep and continuing cultural attachment to Country and are the rightful interpreters of their history and heritage. In this spirit SLM values the diversity of Aboriginal connections to the places and landscapes we care for and are informed by the Aboriginal cultural heritage and identity that underpins our museums and places. This recognition guides the ways in which we create contemporary conversations and experiences at each of our sites.

All the properties are open to the public. We have over 350 volunteers involved in our sites.

  • Total Requested Amount
  • Total Raised From Donors
  • Remaining Goal

Project Details

Postcode where activity will take place: 2000

Start Date: 03/04/2019

End Date: 06/03/2020

Target Population:

  • Indigenous Australians > Indigenous Australians
  • Age Groups

Field of Interest:

  • Arts and culture > Cultural awareness
  • Community and economic development > Community development

Project Summary:

The ‘Songs of Home and Distant Isles’ (Working title) exhibition is part of SLM’s broader Music in the Home initiative, which interprets sound heritage in Sydney/NSW and explores the ideas of the “home” and “place” through music.
The exhibition, the first of its kind held in Australia, will engage with sound heritage in the early Colony of Australia. It will highlight SLM’s unique musical collection and will interpret the past through musical compositions, including Indigenous commissions.
The exhibition focuses on the domestic musical environment of Australia in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, exploring the Anglo-Australian relationship through aspects of musical life and interactions between Indigenous and European music during this period. The exhibition will explore how people constructed a sense of ‘home’ and ‘place’ through music, and reflect on what this means in a contemporary context.

Composers will be informally supported throughout the composition project through their participation in the 2019 Ngarra-Burria: First Peoples Composers initiative, in particular through the guidance of program mentor and composer Chris Sainsbury. The Ngarra-Burria is delivered as a partnership between Moogahlin Performing Arts, the Australian Music Centre, ANU School of Music, and Ensemble Offspring, with funding support from APRA AMCOS, and in-kind support from EORA College of TAFE.

The works will be rehearsed and recorded by musical ensembles from the Royal Australian Navy Band and other musicians as required. The recordings will be available for visitors to listen to in the exhibition and online.

As part of the overall exhibition project, SLM seeks to commission 5 unique contemporary musical compositions in response to the following stories and themes:
Track 1 - Bennelong returns home with Governor John Hunter (1798)
Track 2 - Aboriginal music making in Sydney - pre 1788 and up to early/mid 1800s
Track 3 - Aboriginal Music Making – pushed to the edge
Track 4 - ‘Home’ and ‘place’ in a contemporary context
Track 5 – TBC - Alternatively, we would ask two different composers will be selected to compose either Track 2 or Track 4.

Project Outcomes:

The objective of these compositions is to incorporate Aboriginal musical interpretation of the themes represented in the exhibition. We want to interpret Colonial representations of early Sydney from an Aboriginal perspective while also exploring the intersection between Aboriginal and European music makers in the early Colony.

Recording: The works will be professionally recorded and composers will receive a master copy of the recording. Composers will be able to use the recording for their own commercial purposes, with appropriate acknowledgement that the work was commissioned by Sydney Living Museums. This will provide the composers with wonderful material for their long term professional careers.

Performances: There will be a series of public performance of the works during the exhibition period which will create much greater public awareness and understanding of Indigenous music.

Distribution: It is yet to be confirmed but we are discussing the possibility of producing an album in association with the exhibition.

Promotion: SLM will promote the Indigenous composers and the works as widely as possible in association with the exhibition. This may include PR and media, web stories, social media and articles and content in teh SLMmembers magazine Unlocked.

We will measure achievement in a variety of ways including performance audience numbers ( web and at the Museum of Sydney). Media interest and articles are measured in terms of number, readership

Budget Details

Total Budget: $25,000


Income item Price ($)
2300 Individual philanthropy


Expense item Price ($)
Commission fees 10000
Professional recording 10000
Marketing and promotion,performances 5000

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