Legislative Council: Wednesday, November 15, 2023


SA Music Awards

The Hon. M. EL DANNAWI (14:27): My question is to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Would the minister inform the council about APY music group Dem Mob's recent success at the 2023 SA Music Awards?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (14:27): I thank the honourable member for her question; I would be most delighted to inform the chamber of Dem Mob's recent success at the 2023 music awards. I have spoken before about the increasing success of particularly central desert musicians, and that applies very much to Dem Mob, a hip-hop group hailing from the APY lands. Earlier this year, members may recall that I shared that they would be the first Aboriginal group ever to perform at Spain's huge Primavera Festival, listed alongside such names as Kendrick Lamar and Blur.

Dem Mob's story is exceptionally inspiring. Its three members—Matt Gully, Elisha Umuhuri and Jontae Lawrie—were brought together on the APY lands, where Matt was a teacher, and teamed up with fellow musicians to put together personalised musical tools to help Matt's students, and Jontae in particular in his journey through high school. After Jontae successfully completed high school, the three men came together and realised that their partnership had a future beyond the classroom.

Not long after the group's formation they were invited to play at WOMADelaide, and during the COVID period the band bunkered down during lockdown and perfected their craft while not being able to perform live shows, emerging to the success of performing at Primavera Festival in Spain, and now having huge success at this year's recently awarded SA Music Awards. The group took out five categories in the awards including Best Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Artist, Best Hip Hop and Best Regional Artist.

Dem Mob also won the Emily Burrows Award, which awards $5,000 to further the professional development of an emerging artist or group. Previous recipients of this award in South Australia have included artists who have gone on to bigger and better, and in some cases great, things, such as Tilly Tjala Thomas, Electric Fields (with members also hailing from the APY lands) and the Hilltop Hoods. So Dem Mob is certainly in very esteemed company.

Importantly, the group also took out the Best Educator Award in honour of their work in the APY lands and in Ceduna to implement programs like the one created by Matt and Elisha to help Jontae get through school. They encourage students to engage with first language and are one of the first, if not the first, hip-hop outfits to sing in Pitjantjatjara.

Next for Dem Mob is a trip to New York in 2024 to perform at the Lincoln Center and the recording of a debut album. It is clear to see that there is a very bright future for Dem Mob, and I send sincere congratulations for their excellent, although utterly unsurprising, success at this year's SA Music Awards.