Wendy Notley is a non-Aboriginal early childhood trained teacher. She began working at Murawina Multi-Purpose Aboriginal Education Centre in Eveleigh St, Redfern NSW (otherwise known as ‘the block’) in 1990. Wendy has been one of the longest working non-Aboriginal teachers at Murawina.
Inspired by years of teaching Aboriginal kids, Wendy wrote a collection of songs in 1995 for the Koori kids in her class at Murawina to sing. The collection of songs honour Aboriginal children and celebrate Aboriginal cultures. The children and staff at Murawina loved the songs and encouraged Wendy to record them so that they could reach a wider audience.
Wendy received written permission to include the names of 11 Aboriginal language groups from around Australia, in the song lyrics on Growin’ Up Strong, her first album. She also received permission to include 3 language words from the Bundjalung, language. The lyric content of the songs was reviewed and is supported by Aboriginal Education and Community based groups in NSW.
Growin’ Up Strong was recorded in ’96 and was nominated for Best Children's Album by APRA in ’96 (National Australian song writing award).
Growin’ Up Strong Teacher Resource Kit was published by Scholastic (‘97-99). Wendy developed the Kit in consultation with 11 Aboriginal communities from around Australia, Aboriginal Education and Community based groups in NSW and Pilawuk from the Ngangiwumerri Nation (NT). The Kit supported and extended the songs on Growin’ Up Strong.
Wendy developed some dance choreography to accompany the songs on Growin’ Up Strong to present in preschools and schools. The presentation is based directly on Wendy's songs and involves all children in song, dance and drama experiences that support and extend the messages in the songs.
Wendy shares her experience as a non-Aboriginal teacher to demonstrate how a non-Aboriginal person can embrace and introduce an Aboriginal perspective into the classroom. The Aboriginal Programs Unit and Performing Arts Unit (NSW Dept. of Education and Training) have accredited Wendy’s performance.
Wendy self-published the Growin’ Up Strong Teacher Resource Book (available for purchase).
Wendy wrote a second collection of children’s songs., which were to feature on her second album, happy to be me. The songs continue to affirm Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and portray experiences that all children can relate to.
This period was spent in pre-production, following the same protocol as with the Growin’ Up Strong CD - requesting and receiving written permission to include 21 different language names from communities around Australia. Some of the the songs include language words from the Bundjalung, Wiradjuri and Pitjantjatjara languages.
The lyric content of the new songs was reviewed and is supported by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language groups included in the song lyrics and Aboriginal Education and Community based Groups in NSW.
Rehearsals began with: Nardi Simpson (Stiff Gins and Freshwater vocalist/songwriter) - vocals/harmonies; David Roberts - bass; Ashley Donovan (The Donovans) - drums. The kids rehearsed the songs with Wendy in her kitchen: Nayden Simon, Taleena Simon, Rick Golding, Tyrrel Freeman-Mafi, Bre-arna Freeman, Jay-lara Freeman, Shanice Vincent, Syrenne Anu, Kuiam Anu, Izabella Tunis-Notley, Heba Alameddine and Laielle Alameddine...and they were great.
happy to be me was recorded and produced in 2004 with the money that Wendy had saved from performances and CD sales over many years.
The happy to be me Teacher Resource Book was developed in collaboration with Aboriginal education consultants and reviewed by the NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Early Childhood Support and Advisory Group.
The 132 page Teacher Resource Book includes the illustrated dance actions to ten of the songs on happy to be me, extension ideas and blackline masters to support the songs.
The Teacher Resource Book was published by Blake Education in 2007 and can be bought directly from Aunty Wendy's Mob via this website. The happy to be me Teacher Resource Book was published by Blake Education in 2007 and can be bought directly from the Aunty Wendy’s Mob website.
Wendy collaborated with Aboriginal artists from urban and rural NSW, the Central Desert and Cape York Peninsula to illustrate eight of her songs featured on the happy to be me CD. The artist’s interpretation of her song lyrics brings a deeper meaning to the songs messages of acceptance, cultural identity, connection to the land and sense of belonging.
The eight picture books were published in June 2009 and are available to buy from the Aunty Wendy’s Mob website.
Aunty Wendy’s Mob was invited to open YABUN on 26th January 2009. The band line up was Nardi Simpson (vocals/guitar), David Roberts (bass), Ashley Donovan (guitar) and John Lokeni (drums) plus 22 deadly Koori kids from Darlington Public School and the local Glebe Community singing and ‘dancing up a storm’ with Wendy on the Main Stage. The performance was filmed by NITV.
Wendy attempted to attract funding to produce a series of music clips to accompany her songs.
She traveled to the West Indies to perform her work in schools and to absorb the beats and rhythms of the Caribbean, hoping it may influence the ‘sound’ of her next album.
Wendy continued to perform her work in preschools and schools in Australia and took some much-needed time off from her busy schedule to rest.
Wendy met with a number of potential funding bodies to procure funding to produce a music clip series…nothing definite yet!
She produced (self funded) a promo clip of ‘ridge-i-didge’ from the ‘happy to be me’ CD as a means of attracting funding.
Wendy’s in pre-production (self funded) to film the 1st Verse of, ‘Red, Black and Yellow’ from the Growin’ Up Strong CD.
‘As I was walking down Eveleigh Street, Eveleigh Street, Eveleigh Street
Some little Koori kids I chanced to meet
Singin' ‘Red, Black and Yellow’
Ridge-i-didge, ridge-i-didge and away we go, away we go, away we go
Ridge-i-didge, ridge-i-didge and away we go.
Singin' ‘Red, Black and Yellow’
‘Red, Black and Yellow’ is the national favourite of all the Aunty Wendy’s Mob songs. The 1st verse needs to be filmed asap as Eveleigh St, Redfern is scheduled to be completely demolished at the end of 2012.
Filming will start before the end of the year.
Wendy continues to present her songs, dances and stories in preschools.
Filming was delayed last year.
In March, pre production for filming the Eveleigh St verse of ‘Red, Black and Yellow’ began. Wendy invited children and families from the local area to be involved in the process, She began intensive rehearsals with children at Wunanbiri Preschool in Alexandria; Centipede After School Care in Glebe; Mt Carmel in Waterloo; Darlington Public and Jarjums College in Redfern.
Eveleigh St was closed to traffic on Saturday 15th June and returned to the people. Filming began mid morning on a cold and overcast day. Over seventy families turned up with their children to be in the historic footage.
The energy was high. The kids were deadly and they danced hard and long. We filmed till 3 pm with a short break for some yummy tucker.
Wendy connected with a talented Martu filmmaker, Curtis Taylor. They teamed up and applied for funding from the Martu Trust School Holiday Fund to film (in collaboration with Gugalyia and Larrakia filmmakers) Aboriginal children on country, singing and performing their verse of ‘Red, Black and Yellow’.
Funding came through on Christmas Eve and it was time for celebration.
Unfortunately, funding for filming was withdrawn in February due to unforeseen problems at the funding body.
Wendy continued to perform in early childhood services and schools helping to ‘close the gap’ on a daily basis.
Wendy, Curtis Taylor and Aunty Nola Taylor met at the Museum of Contemporary Art in November when Wendy was asked to present ‘Red, Black and Yellow’ as part of Corroboree Festival and in conjunction with the opening of the Martu Art Exhibition.
Wendy continues to present her songs, dances and stories to children in Preschools, Long day Care Centres and Schools.