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The Year of God's Favour?
A challenging album...
with songs reflecting on Australia's history & identity
produced as a contribution to reflections in 'bi-centennial' year 1988
200 years of white settlement: "white Australia has a black history".

Order-Buy: 1. Custom-CD
2. A4 Book with music and lyrics

Track List
Project History
Cover Photograph
Preface by Peter Kearney
Letter by Fr. Peter Brock
Extra Notes on Songs

The title 'The Year of God's Favour?' refers to the Old Testament tradition of the Jubilee Year, a special year which was intended to restore balance to society. The vision of the Jubilee year set out for the community an ideal of justice and social equality. Land was to be returned to its original owners. People in bondage, whether through debt or exploitation by others were to be set free. (See Leviticus 25: 8-17; 29-31). This was the tradition Jesus had in mind when at the start of his public life, he read the passage from Isaiah: "I come to bring good news to the poor, liberty to the captives.. to proclaim the year of God's favour.." (See Isaiah 61: 1-2 and Luke 4: 16-22). The songs in this collection (originally published during Australia's bicentennial year) look at Australian society and history in the light of this ancient justice tradition.


1. Rock Of Ages/Uluru: - Symbols of hope and reconciliation for Australia

2. The Year Of God's Favour: - From Isaiah 61 : 1-2

3. Hope For The Tree: - Based on address by Pope John Paul II to Aborigines at Alice Springs

4. Living In This Country: "Living in this country is like living with two souls: one is new and shiny, the other dark and old..."

5. The Deaths Go On: - On Aboriginal deaths in custody. This song was awarded the Declan Affley Memorial Aeard for the best new song at the Australian National Folk Festival, 1988.

6. When The Morning Comes Again - Lullaby of despair and hope

7. Bill: - an Australian 'Christ-figure' . . . setting of a poem by Henry Lawson

8. No More Boomerang: - Phyl Lobl's setting of a poem by Oodgeroo Noonuccal (Kath Walker)

9. Advertising Man: - A scathing look at the advertising industry and consumerism

10. Letter From Risdon Prison: - Based on Karin Donaldson's reflection on the sacredness of environment, written while she was in Risdon Prison Hobart after being arrested during the blockades to save the Franklin River.

11. Start From Where You Are: A song of gentle hope and encouragement.

12. The Promised Land: - A prayer in the context of Australian history

Originally published during Australia's 'bi-centennial' year 1988, yet every song remains relevant.

1988, HAV Studio, Bunadoon, NSW. Engineer - Graeme Armitt.
Produced and arranged by Peter Kearney.
Singers and musicians include: Helen Archer, Claire Parkhill, Peter Kearney, Nic Lyon, Lindsay Martin, Louise Gore, Kevin Baker, Lito Hernandez.

COVER PHOTO: Pattie Newman photographed by Marie Grunke

"'The Year Of God's Favour?' is more than just a well produced album of quality songs. At a time when Australians grappling with questions left unanswered for over 200 years, this album presents a perspective that is founded in Gospel values of justice, compassion and hope." (Br. Peter Green)


The cover photograph presents A photo of Patricia (Pattie) Newman, taken in Redfern by her friend, Marie Grunke. Marie wrote the following passage about Pattie for 'The Year Of God's Favour?' tape insert:

"Pattie was in tears as she spoke to the BBC interviewer. She was telling him of her life as an Aboriginal person in this country. How she was taken from her family as a small child and placed in a white orphanage; how she started drinking at the age of 14 and how she finally lost all her children to "welfare". Now she was trying once more to get her children back. She had managed to stay sober for more than a year. The interviewer asked her: 'what enables you to go on?' She replied, 'it's the love of these people, the "churchies" , they are family to me. They accept me for what I am.' " (nb. 'Churchies' a group of Aboriginal people who lived in an unused warehouse near St Vincent's Church, Redfern).

"The poor of the Earth have a unique insight into the one human family. In their shared experience of suffering, their baptism by fire, they come to know in a profound way the Fatherhood and Motherhood of God, the one who sides with the oppressed. Shortly before Pattie died, she told some of her friends: 'I won't have to suffer much longer. Jesus told me he is coming to take me home.' She died on January 7. 1987 while being annointed by Fr. Ted Kennedy who loved her like a daughter. She was 27 years of age." (Marie Grunke)


This is my sixth collection of songs but the first in which I have fried to write about my own country. I don't find it easy to write about Australia: "In our history there are hard things to remember; the nation's soul is hard to understand." (Rock Of Ages / Uluru).

In writing these songs, I have taken up the commission heard from several Aboriginal people: 'talk to your people, tell them the truth'. Here we are, members of the dominant white race, living in what has been called 'the lucky country'. Yet, as the Aboriginal poet Maureen Watson once said: 'everything you white people enjoy today is at the expense of your black brothers and sisters'. This land has been taken by a long cruel conquest. The conquest has been maintained and justified by lies, wilful blindness, shameful laws and a hardness of heart and mind that must blame and despise the victim. A secondary school teacher wrote to me recently. 'Sometimes, in talking to beautiful young white children, I have been astonished to see their faces contorted with anger and hatred, and poison coming out of their mouths when the subject of Aborigines is brought up.' Denied facts and feelings work powerfully beneath the surface.

While travelling in the south-west of Victoria I heard that there is a field where the farmer never ploughs because of the bones that lie just beneath the surface. It is a place known by some as 'Murdering Flats' where Aboriginal people were herded together, tied up and shot. The terrible hardness that justified this act has passed through only four or five generations to many of the children of that area today and the remnants of the murdered race are still despised and rejected. The secret of 'Murdering Flats' is locked in the hearts of the people. The place is not marked. The act IS not repented. The story could be repeated with variations all over Australia. It is the story of Cain and Abel. While preparing these songs, 1 was given a copy of a letter written by Fr Peter Brock of Belmont, New South Wales.

"Out of my window I can see Lake Macquarie; the Pacific Ocean is five minutes walk away. Two hundred years ago this strip of land provided an abundance of food and a place where there were to be stories to be told, songs to be sung, ceremonies to be celebrated, lives to be lived within a society of complex, subtle relationships. One hundred and ninety-eight years ago, Governor Phillip, who'd been on this continent a few minutes , read a proclamation which, in effect, dispossessed these people. That flagpole on Botany Bay, and then Sydney Cove, punctured and poisoned the earth. The Awabakal people here, between lake and ocean, took a generation before finding out that it was someone else's land. How could they sing the Spirit's song in a foreign land? They stayed long enough for a missionary to learn something of their language, and to translate into that language the Gospel of St Luke. Meanwhile some died of disease. Some were killed. Some fled. They have gone. Their language has gone. But are there ghosts, who sing, or wail in the night? Do they call out to the people-of-the- Spirit (the artists, the mystics, the prophets those who have the land in their blood) calling out for justice, perhaps, or for recognition, or reconciliation, or decent burial rites? There is a book at the University , in which you can read, in Awabakal, the words: 'Father, forgive them, they do not know what they are doing.' Do these very syllables still sound in the night? I believe they do."

"It seems to me a particularly bitter irony that the Spirit-people of European descent (again, the artists, the mystics, the prophets . . .) should take so very long to recognise, believe, and begin to interpret the voices in the night .... Until the event of 1788 is seen and named, the Spirit will groan within the earth. And the groaning will drive some mad. They will build thicker concrete-and-glass towers and breathe artificial air, keeping their soles from the soil. They will fly jumbo jet to Bali and Hong Kong and Singapore and to the Sacred Sites of Europe, rather than risk Uluru at sunset. And they will try to stuff the emptiness of their soul with Packer cricket, Bond yacht-racing or Fosters Melbourne Cup, trying, vainly, to appease the Spirit that cries out to them to know and love the Land into which they were born. Safer, they think, to whistle the advertisers' jingles, than sing the Land's songs. Fireworks, they decide, rather than ceremonies. Flags and slogans, rather than learning some syllables of the original local language - in case one hears those voices, yet again, in the night." (Fr. Peter Brock)

It is interesting to note that 'Murdering Flats' is sometimes called Murmuring Flats'. ? At the risk of driving some people mad, I have tried to listen to those voices, to sing out the truth of our past and present, and sing of my hopes for the next two hundred years. I hope the time will come when there will be well attended, deeply moving ceremonies of remembrance and reconciliation at 'Murdering/Murmuring Flats'. Maybe then the voices will be still and the hardness of our hearts will be softened.

Meanwhile, the Aboriginal people are still with us, still calling out for justice, still struggling for their rights, against so much distrust and prejudice. Their central call is for Land Rights, yet so few will listen to understand what they really mean. Few have really heard what Pope John Paul II said in his address at Alice Springs: "Let it not be said that the fair and equitable recognition of Aboriginal rights to land is discrimination. To call for the acknowledgment of the land rights of people who have never surrendered these rights is not discrimination. Certainly what has been done cannot be undone. But what can now be done to remedy the deeds of yesterday must not be put off till tomorrow."

I hope these songs will help us along the way . . . 'this troubled road we go to the Promised Land.'

(Peter Kearney, July 1988)

by Peter Kearney

I heard of an Aboriginal saying recently: "if you whitefellas love this country after 200 years, can you imagine how we love it after 40,000 years?" In 1986, Uluru (Ayers Rock), one of the most sacred places to Aboriginal people, was handed back. into their care. Of course, to whites also, the Rock is a significant place . . . the logo of a Building Society? . . . a natural feature to climb and conquer? Hopefully, gradually, it will come to mean more . . . a symbol of our Centre where we are all one in God? . . . of reconciliation through justice between black and white? In the meantime, it is so right that Uluru is in the gentle care of the people who regard this land as their Mother.

"In the Old Testament, the vision of the Jubilee Year, the year of God' s favour, setout for the community an ideal of justice and social equality. Land was returned to its original owners. people in bondage. whether through debt or exploitation by others. were set free . . . What about Australia in 1988?"
(from a CCJP Paper)

In the synagogue at Nazareth at the start of his public life. Jesus introduced himself and his mission in the tradition of Jubilee Law by reading from Isaiah 61 : 1 -2 and this is the passage 1 have adapted and set to music.

Pope John Paul II from his address to the Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders at Alice Springs, I986:

"If you stay closely united, you are like aTree standing in the middle of a bush fire sweeping through the timber. The leaves arescorched and the tough bark is scarred and burned; but inside the Tree the sap is still flowing. and under the ground the roots are still strong. Like that Tree, you have endured the flames and you still have the power to be reborn."

The image of the Tree is from Job 14: 7-9.

A poem by Henry Lawson which seems to portray an earthy Australian 'Christ'. Some verses have been omitted - one with racist overtones. Another excellent Lawson poem. unflawed, on a similar theme is 'The Christ Of The Never'.

Karin Donaldson was one of those arrested during the blockades mounted to save the Wilderness of South West Tasmania in 1983. This song is based on a letter she wrote to friends from prison in Hobart.

Karin is also the artist who created the cover artwork for the following albums: 'Turn It All Around', 'Where Is Your Song, My Lord?', 'Signs Of Hope' and 'Celebration'.

Originally commissioned by the Sydney Catholic Communications Centre during the International Year of Peace 1986. It was intended for Television broadcast and is addressed to someone slumped in front of 'the box'.