WELCOME TO THIS PERFORMANCE OF
WE HOPE YOU ENJOY THE SHOW
Ahead of this performance of Voyage, The Good Girl Song Project would like to offer a trigger warning for some of the material and themes in our show, including:
Sexual abuse and violence
Description of brutality towards Aboriginal persons.
In order to represent the time period genuinely, please be aware that Aboriginal people are spoken of in a cruel and derogatory fashion. We also wish to state that where these colonialist attitudes are present in our show, they do not represent the views or opinions of any of our cast, crew, or associates. We understand that the above may be triggering for some, and wish to acknowledge that our telling of this story is done with the utmost level of respect.
This performance will run for 90 minutes, no interval.
Please ensure your mobile devices are switched off.
A NOTE FROM
VOYAGE DIRECTOR RUBY REES
This story is one of sizeable scale. Simmered down over many years (long before Iwas in the picture) to the version we present to you today, from a curation of verbatim quotes, a series of songs - performed in a vacuum as singular entities in their own musical right, and with an entirely different function asked of its performers, this work has never been minor in nature.
Its scope is national, its essence universally human, yet Helen carves a hole, out of which, with one eye squeezed shut, we can spy the sights of just one unique perspective on the complexities of Australia’s history. Despite its thematic weight, the work itself is humble; there are more musicians than actors on the stage, and little else. Just two women charged with portraying a myriad of characters both close and far in reach from their own selves. The set? Missing entirely, sparing only a few key objects that in the capable hands of the performers, transform and morph at every turn. The music, live and thick with human impulse, is largely responsible for creating not one but three separate worlds in which the story unfolds. Stir in my
complete lack of musical knowledge and deep-seated apprehension to tackle a colonialist work, this felt like a near impossible feat. The challenge was appealing. Perhaps a sadomasochistic impulse to say yes to the discomfort, kept my nose to the page on the very first read. What met me was a new work of pure heart, a story of mismatched kinship and the innately hopeful and Australian ability to persevere despite the most profound adversity. This was theatre scaled down, theatre that
requires less — less props, less people, less work on the part of its audiences’ imaginations. I think it was this scaling, the process of taking something major and whittling its execution down to almost nothing, that I was seduced by. The bare
essentials. It was enough to sign my name on the dotted line.
It would be remiss of us to leave unacknowledged what is obviously missing from the piece beyond tangible objects and personnel. The perspective of First Nations peoples, the traditional and rightful owners and custodians of the vast land we now call home. The start and end of this story, if depicted numerically, would begin at scene 6 and end at scene 8.
The parts that came before; the dreaming and the stories of Australia that we as white women, settlers, in part - unwanted guests, are not ours to tell, nor do we have the right to be remiss and ignore what happened post our introduction in the narrative. Whenwe ask questions about who we are, I believe the only answers worth listening to, are those that own what we are not. We have the means and resources to seek guidance from those who know more. We can call upon others’ gifts to understand more about ourselves, should they be willing and able.
I have hope for an Australia where native stories and the stories who belong to people who look like me can interweave with thekind of glue that is made of only respect, curiosity and productive conversation.
This conversation is ongoing and never really over...
— Ruby Rees
The Good Girl & Others
Elizabeth Wade & Others
Elizabeth Wade & Others
Aboriginal Cultural Consultant
CREATIVES & CREW
Special thanks to past musicians and creatives who have been in different stages of the works' development.
(his concertina tune can be heard in Remember Elizabeth Wade)
NOTES FROM VOYAGE WRITER & COMPOSER
Voyage has not followed the traditional path of theatre making. It started with casual research, a song and a personal challenge and ended up as a full theatrical production. The long non-traditional development of the piece has enriched the final script, and allowed the songs to reach deeply into the psyches of the characters and strengthen the story’s themes of emigration and adaptation.
I came across the beginning of the story one afternoon when I was reading, Damned Whores and God’s Police which is a 1970’s feminist reading of Australian history by Anne Summers. The scene depicted in her book was about the first time that a group of emigrant women stepped onto the pier at Port Jackson in Sydney. Newspapers of the time reported that they were met by at least 2000 men jeering at and abusing them. This shocked me! My response was to write a song that attempted to understand how the emigrant women may have experienced this “welcome”.
This first song set me on the path to discovering these women and their stories. It led me to Liz Rushen’s work which forms the basis of what is now
Voyage. Along the way, I have been challenged by questions of my own identity. My entire family emigrated to Australia in the colonial era. Following the emigrant women’s stories, has given me insight into what my ancestors world may have been like. The questions I keep coming back to are; Were they welcomed or mistreated? Were they lonely, homesick, disconnected, or disoriented? Did they turn around and welcome new arrivals or did they perpetuate the abuse? What were they prepared to do to survive?
The other question that looms is what of First Nations people? How do I, as a white woman, acknowledge the devastation that colonisation wrought on their
world? I am working with Nola Jensen-Turner who is a Wiradjuri woman fromNSW, a writer and Cultural Consultant to work through this question and
bring an indigenous perspective to the piece.
I believe my purpose and challenge as a songwriter, is to centre my work on Australian women’s stories. I have been lucky to develop my craft on the stages of folk festivals around the country. Women tend to be better represented at folk festivals than other music events. However, other than a handful of traditional or historical Australian Anglo-Celtic songs and stories about immigrantwomen’s experiences from the 1800’s, there is much work to be done to address the dearth of women’s stories being told through song. I have written many songs about women and their experiences but ‘Voyage’ is my first major theatrical work that attempts to rise to that challenge.
THE REAL "GOOD GIRLS"
BY HISTORIAN AND AUTHOR LIZ RUSHEN
The Good Girl Song Project tells in a very real and lively way an important story about Australia’s past which clearly resonates with us today.
As an immigrant nation, Australia has experienced the arrival of countless people from theearliest days of settlement until the present time. In the early 1830s, just over 3000 free women migrated to Australia on 16 ships chartered specifically for them. These women madean informed decision to migrate. The colonies offered a new life, but the risks were enormous. Emigration was clearly an attractive option for many women in the depressed economies of the 1830s and like people today, they left their homes because they could see a better life in a new country. They were drawn from a variety of backgrounds throughout Britain and Ireland and a significant number of educated women took up this opportunity to migrate. The emigration motivations of the educated women are not as transparent as those of the distressed, unskilled women, but their determination to seek new opportunities was just as real.
Despite the realisation that there was little likelihood that they would ever see their homes again, the very real dangers of undertaking a lengthy sea voyage, the lack of any detailed knowledge of frontier life in the colonies, despite all the odds stacked against them, these adventurous and courageous single women decided to take on the challenge of migration.
From the British government’s empire-building perspective, the women would build social stability in the colonies where large numbers of single men dominated the population: in a white population of nearly 60,000 in New South Wales, 73% were male and 27% were female, while in Van Diemen’s Land, in a white population around 40,000, 71% were male and 29% female. These were the overall figures. In the bush it was estimated that in some districts, males outnumbered females
20:1. The arrival of such a large number of women had an enormous impact and altered the nature of colonial society. Today their descendants number in the untold tens of thousands. Australia was populated then largely through Britain’s desire to expand its empire, causing a huge moral dilemma for many
Australians today. As Manning Clark asked white Australians, reiterated by Professor Davison at a recent community history awards ceremony, "Do we belong here?. How do we reconcile those who have migrated to this country, or who are descended from migrants, in these times when non-Indigenous presence is being questioned? It’s a long conversation in Australiatoday as it was in the nineteenth-century. It’s a question which invokes passionate responses. In considering this question, it
helps to study and understand the processes by which people migrate, whether from government action or inaction, and the
motivations and processes of the agents and agencies involved.
In the nineteenth century, the topic of migration was as controversial as it is for us today. From the time of their arrival, the women occupied an ambiguous position in colonial society. Encouraged to migrate for the skills they brought to the colonies and to provide homes as wives and mothers, they were expected to be of good moral character and conform to colonial expectations. Any indiscretions, whether real or imagined, were widely reported. Yet they were willing to risk leaving their
homes for an unknown future on the other side of the world. Travelling without a male protector combined with their need to work in order to survive in the colonies made them not respectable in the eyes of many colonists. Poems, songs and ditties lampooned the newly-arrived women and presented an image of them as immoral, depraved and “fair game.”
It is hard for us to imagine that there would have been prejudice against single women arriving here - in colonial Australia there was such a shortage of women, you would think that they would have been welcomed. But many of these women only spoke Gaelic, many were Catholic and they were entering a largely Protestant, English society. These issues of religion and language resonate with us in considering immigrants who wish to make Australia their home today.
By whatever means individuals are pushed or pulled to migrate to Australia, whether two hundred years ago or as recently as this year, we are all contributors to this wonderful country, perhaps the greatest multicultural success story in the world today, and it is a test of our maturity as a society how we welcome new people, particularly those who speak a different language or who worship under a different creed.
The Good Girl Song Project provides the framework for discussion about the centuries-old issues of migration: identity, adaptability, acceptance.
DID YOU ENJOY THE SHOW?
THERE ARE A NUMBER OF WAYS TO HELP US OUT...
Share your thoughts and tag us on social media @thegoodgirlsongproject
Purchase a digital download of the Voyage original album...
***Please note, this album does not contain all songs from the current show
Donate towards the creation of a Voyage cast recording album, and production film...
Voyage is on the 2021 Drama Playlist, and is currently being studied by VCE students across Victoria. Help us to create a filmed version for the regional schools who are not able to travel to see our performances. Every donation, big or small, helps us enormously.
In for the long haul? Become a patron of The Good Girl Song Project, and be an active part in the further development of this work...
for choosing to support a new, Australian work.
The Good Girl Song Project would like to thank the generous patrons and organisations who have helped us to present this work in it's current form.
Liz Rushen & Peter Rushen
Alan "Jock" Burnett