Kerrianne Cox, a humble multi-award winning performer, philanthropist and human rights activist, has spent a large part of her life travelling and inspiring people all over the world with her music and passion for the wellbeing of mankind.
As a shy girl from the remote ex-mission of Beagle Bay, north of Broome, Kerrianne became a well-known performer when she left her community to explore the outside world.
“I spent a bit of time with the church, but I left that world and I started to kind of expand out. As I limped into my spirituality, I connected with ancient culture and that was really important for me,” she says.
Performing has always been an important part of her culture, with knowledge being passed down the generations through song and dance. Each of her albums has songs to reflect different phases in her life as well as the Aboriginal culture and her community.
“I’m just keeping an old legacy strong and knowing that I’m a part of something that’s been going since people before me,” she says. “It’s not just about music for me. I’m there for my people.”
After three album releases Kerrianne boasts a collection of awards for her talent including four Deadly Awards, A Western Australia Music Industry award for Best Indigenous Artist of the Year, NAIDOC’s Female Artist Award, and an Australian Live Music Award.
In Australia, Kerrianne has performed at some iconic venues and historical events including the Sorry Day concert at Sydney Opera House, the Sydney Survival Concert, opening Perth Artrage in 1998 and Corroborree in 2000. She was also a featured artist at the foot of the Harbour Bridge during the Reconciliation Bridge Walk in 2000.
As well as building a strong singing career, Kerrianne is a powerful activist for her people. She has spent several years leading a lobbying group against a planned liquefied natural gas plant at James Price Point in the North West Kimberley area. “Beagle Bay means everything to me. Everything I am doing with the government is for the people, by the people, about the people and with the people. Every day is a great challenge,” she has said.
Protecting the area and conserving the environment for future generations is very important to Kerrianne. Her song “Mother Song” strongly expresses this: “Stop raping the land, we can’t take what she can’t give no more. Motherland is here for us to love and take care of. Who are we to forget about her? We must make a stand, work with her to exist, and then we will have a place to live with her in harmony,” her powerful lyrics say.
She believes a small eco-sustainable community owned and controlled by the people offers the only way forward for her people and communities all across Australia. Recently, Kerrianne also appeared in the media to express her disdain with the naming of National Sorry Day. She believes it should be changed to something reflective of the progress of the relationship between the Australian Government and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community since the apology.
While she has accepted the apology offered by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, she would like to see more progress made between the people in terms of understanding the needs of her people and those living in other remote Aboriginal communities.
She encourages young people within these communities to come forward and be leaders toward this. “We need young leaders who can be strong to advocate for the people in their communities, especially in the non-English speaking mobs who haven’t really studied the white man’s world or the westerner world,” she says.
Kerrianne’s career has led her to travel extensively through the United States and Canada. She has had the pleasure of performing at the Kennedy Centre in Washington DC and the Lincoln Centre in New York. She also toured South Africa, playing at events hosted by the Australian High Commission of Cape Town and she was invited to perform in New Caledonia for two weeks at the Femme Funk Festival. Several experiences overseas changed her and confirmed her determination.
It was during her time in South Africa that she discovered a new perspective on the world and compared her time there with spending time on the edge of Broome or the Kimberley. “I had a very spiritual experience there meeting the people because they were very much like us,” she says. “That place showed me that we do have a lot here, we just need to come together and pull together to resolve the things that can be resolved.”
Kerrianne was awarded a Centenary Medal by the Australian Government for service to her country and upon returning to Beagle Bay post-travel, she was elected as chairperson of the community by her people. It was then that she began lobbying for change in the mistreatment of women, and against the trend of abuse within the community.
This work also earned her a nomination for the National Human Rights Community (Individual) Award. Much of Kerrianne’s time has been spent campaigning for women’s rights and the negative impacts of the criminal justice system.
She has performed at the International Sisters Inside conference and spoke of her personal healing journey and the trauma that the first people of Australia have suffered at the Free Minds Expo. To find out more about Kerrianne, head to www.kerriannecox.com/