Streets of Your Town: The Journo Project
Streets of Your Town
The Quokkas on making kids music more inclusive

The Quokkas on making kids music more inclusive


Well helloooooo and best wishes of the season to you all, my dedicated Streets of Your Towners!

Thanks for your joy, patience and unwavering support throughout this cracker of a year for The Wandering Journo.

My apologies for the somewhat intermittent rate of podcasts in the last six months of this year but I’m hoping once you’ve read all that has happened to me this year you will understand why and, most of all, enjoy today’s new cheery Christmas podcast episode on The Quokkas! You can listen to it by clicking on the link above or by downloading “Streets of Your Town” on your podcast provider of choice.

You can’t be what you can’t see. It’s a saying that prompted a former AFL player to create a children’s band, so that his kids could be exposed to more than the bland musical world they were offered.

Nick Gill is the founder of children’s band The Quokkas, which he started in 2020 with a mission to show children a modern and inclusive Australia through song.

“I’ve got twins, and back in 2020 they would’ve been about three years old at that point, and we just started looking at the media that they were consuming and there was a lot of unrest in the world at that stage,” Nick says.

“If they’re consuming media that doesn’t really allow them to realise that inclusivity and noticing diversity of cultures and backgrounds and abilities, if they’re not aware of all of that in the world, then slowly they might grow prejudice because they’re not seeing it.

“So we decided to try and change the books that they were reading so that they weren’t so, say, whitewashed. And then we started looking at the TV shows they were watching, and then we realised that there wasn’t heaps of music around that had that kind of message of inclusivity and diversity.

“And so I thought, well, I’m a musician, I’ve been writing music for 20 years or so. Why not make a kid’s band that has exactly, not only that premise in their music, but the premise in the personnel as well. And that’s how The Quokkas came about.”

After his AFL career, Nick first went on to become a Channel 7 news reporter and then Breakfast radio host in Newcastle, but it’s writing songs for his twins that reflects the diversity of Australia that now keeps him awake at night.

But credit where credit’s due—he has listed them as songwriters on the tracks they’ve helped with.

“And look, my twins, who are now six, both then and now were actually very heavily involved in the songwriting because you just don’t necessarily think of what a three-year-old is thinking of,” he says.

“And so when you are doing stuff, early days we had a song called Outside the Car, just about things that you see outside a car and they’re helping me write what should be seen outside the car. It’s that simple. You want to do a song about their favourite food? What is your favourite food? We’ll do a banana, we’ll do a pizza song. And they were actually really useful in being able to get into the psyche of our target audience, which is zero to six year olds.”

So Nick recruited an elite group of musicians to form The Quokkas, with the attitude that they’re learning as much from the kids as the kids are from the music. Rounding out the band are are Pamalyn Hyde, a proud Torres Strait Islander and the niece of Aussie music royalty Christine Anu, disability advocate, concert pianist and blind music producer Matt McLaren, Komiti Levai, a world-class vocalist from Samoa and judge on Channel 7’s “All Together Now,” and Stef Tuyl, a Dutch music therapist who works with children with disabilities.

They’ve just released a new album called “Songs for Everyone,” and have had their videos downloaded millions of times all around the world, on themes such as body positivity, cooperation and kindness.

Fellow band member Matt McLaren is enjoying branching out from his turn as a finalist in “Australia’s Got Talent,” and also widening the scope for many children who may not have encountered a blind man before.

The timing for him has been perfect in many ways, especially with his young son Owen also influencing the band.

“I know gigs now when we have all these kids come along and they’re singing along in front of us and they know all the words to it—that’s super satisfying. It’s better than satisfying—it’s, it’s a fantastic feeling that these kids are connecting with this music and they’re responding to it so positively and they are taking on the messages,” Matt says.

“And they’re the first to lecture us about—I know Owen is—he’s the first to lecture me about what’s right and wrong. Takes that from the songs and it shows that putting that material in front of the kids does make a bit of a difference.

“And we’ve had some lovely messages from, in particular, a lovely message about a year ago from a guy who’s a blind parent. He’s got a blind kid, and he was just saying that he felt represented. And I get goosebumps thinking about that because that’s so powerful and empowering for someone to see that.

“I don’t like to think of myself as inspirational. I really don’t love that word too much at all. But I guess we’re putting ourselves out there and doing stuff and if people are seeing that, connecting with that, that’s wonderful. That’s what it’s all about.”

State Library of Queensland acquires my podcast!

And here is a very relieved me signing the contract with the Queensland State Library!

How thrilled am I! My little indie podcast Streets of Your Town has become the first podcast purchased by the State Library of Queensland! While the library has made in-house podcasts, this is the first time it’s bought one already in existence into its digital collection. 70 episodes in all from about 105 in existence will now be held at the library for generations to come to enjoy!

To hear the librarian tell me I had captured important history for the state made this salty old Wandering Journo’s heart sing.

And so much of this is thanks to you my supportive Wandering Journo tribe! Truly at times when I thought—what am I telling stories for? I would think of all of you at home reading this newsletter and listening to my podcast! That’s why I’m telling stories!

If I look a little weary in the photos it’s probably because I had just literally finished 70 transcripts of the selected podcasts, which was part of the deal the library outlined. Lovely hubby Andrew took me out to dinner to my favourite restaurant in town the night I finished the last transcript—good man that he is!!! (He knows how motivated I am by good food!)

And the great news from this is that the money I received for these episodes of the podcast from the State Library is going to fund our airfares for a trip to the UK and Ireland in May—so more amazing episodes of Streets of Your Town to come from this part of the world in 2024!!

And so much more!

So between that and getting half way through the second series of the Keeping Kids Safe podcast for the Daniel Morcombe Foundation which I produce and present, it’s been a pretty hectic end to the year!

I’m also working part-time at the National Indigenous Radio Service based at West End as a senior journalist, broadcasting right around the nation to some of the most remote corners of Australia that even the ABC doesn’t get to. I feel so very grateful to be doing such important and gratifying work on every level, with the perfect balance of freelance freedom and ongoing work where I feel I’m making a difference.

Have you downloaded the Keeping Kids Safe podcast yet? It’s such a great podcast to start difficult conversations about how to protect our kids from child abuse. It’s so useful for parents—I know how overwhelmed I feel when I think about this stuff—and the podcast has really helped me break down what I have control over and what I can do.

And finally, I was on the other side of the microphone recently when I was lucky enough to be chosen as an interviewee for “Five of My Life”! If you want to hear some Wandering Journo secrets, you can start here:

Talk to you again soon my Wandering Journo tribe! Hit reply to this email if you have any ideas for people I could interview for Streets of Your Town once the Chrissie rush is over!


1 Comment
Streets of Your Town: The Journo Project
Streets of Your Town
From the Wandering Journo at Stories that Matter Studios this is The Streets of Your Town. The podcast that takes you on an audio journey through theatre of the mind highlighting a different slice of Australian life each episode.