Conversation with Joe Geia

we caught up with first nations singer joe Geia in the lead up to his festival performance, from rations to wages to treaty.

Through his show From Rations To Wages To Treaty, Joe Geia brings audiences an opportunity to learn, reflect, and — above all — celebrate the lives and work of Indigenous leaders and activists in a way that brings people together in the spirit of truth and reconciliation.

Horizon Festival: Hey Joe, tell us a bit about yourself. Where do you live?

Joe Gaia: Hey guys, I live on Macleay Island on Moreton Bay. I moved back to Queensland six years ago after living and working as a musician for 30 years in Melbourne. It’s a great community here — there’s lots of musicians and artists that live here.

And where to you work?

My music work takes me all over the country but as I am visual artist as well I have a studio on Macleay Island .

Where’s your favourite place to go on the Sunshine Coast location

As a guest performer for Dawn Awakening last year it doesn’t get much better than Stumers Creek and Coolum Beach for me. It was such a pleasure to work with Lyndon Davis (and the Gubi Gubi Dance team) and the incredible crew from Horizon festival who are so incredibly supportive of all artists involved.

Well, thank you! How would you describe yourself as an artist?

I am a singer songwriter and visual artist. I’m a Guugu Yimidhirr/Kaurareg Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. In my wide-ranging career I have worked with many of Australia’s best musicians, starting my career with pioneering Indigenous band “No Fixed Address” and I was a founding member of the Black Arm Band. I have also remained committed to working in communities for over 40 years. I’m a singer, songwriter, yidaki player, guitarist, band leader, and recording artist.

How would you describe your work / practice to others?

My songwriting and art takes people on a journey across Australia and incorporates often unknown stories of Aboriginal and Islander Australia

How would those closest to you describe you in one sentence?

I think they would say: He is passionate about creating change and understanding through music, as he says, melodically and harmoniously. He is much loved and respected by all who know him.

If you had to describe your Horizon Festival project to someone you didn’t know, what would you say?

The show celebrates our Elders. It’s a glimpse into Queensland’s black history and the achievements of our elders and leaders whose struggle achieved so much for future generations.

Who will love your project?

The importance of this show is threefold: to provide Elders and community members an avenue to reminisce — to reflect on their own lives and achievements despite adversity; to educate young people and children in Indigenous history and the resilience, strength, survival and resistance of Ancestors; and to enable non-Indigenous people an enhanced understanding of historical contexts. The songs tell the stories of strong Elders and leaders who fought to ensure justice for Indigenous peoples. This show is a tribute to them so that they are remembered for their part in the struggle for justice. It is a journey through Blak history through Blak music, is engaging, educational and thought provoking.  At a time where the Uluru Statement of the Heart is forefront in Australian minds, this is the time for transformational change. It is a celebration of 40 years in the music industry as an Indigenous activist songwriter and performer.

What are you looking forward to most about Horizon Festival? 

As I said earlier, I had an amazing experience being part of Horizon Festival last year, so I’m really looking forward to bringing my band, songs, and insight into Blak History to audiences on the Sunshine Coast.

Ok, time for some quick-fire questions. One word to describe your show?


What else will you be doing while you’re on the Sunshine Coast?

Checking out Kabi Kabi Connections.

Favourite book, band and meal?

Book: Palm Island: Through a long lens

Band: Earth, Wind and Fire

Meal: Thai curry

Tell us something people don’t know about you.

I got a real blakfulla sense of humour.

for more info on Joe, head to his website, or Instagram.

Searching for more events? Explore the full program here

This feature promotes Horizon Festival’s upcoming annual event.

Horizon Festival — the Sunshine Coast’s premier multi-arts festival — returns 25 August to 3 September 2023.

The 10-day offering takes place all over the Sunshine Coast — beaches, the hinterland, warehouses. The lot.

At our core: we celebrate place — it’s the heartbeat of the festival — and our programming reflects this.  But, more importantly, we honour the Traditional Custodians of the Country on which we stand — the Kabi Kabi Peoples and Jinibara Peoples.

Our events vary. And they’re (almost) always in spectacular locations. There’s music, art, theatre, dance, workshops, ceremony, and plenty for the family.

So, pop the kettle on, put your feet up, and enjoy flicking through this year’s program — we’d love to see you at an event.     

See you on the horizon,

The Horizon Festival Team