David Arden introduced the musician at the Victorian Seniors Festival


Kokatha and Gunditjmara musician David Arden will headline the Victorian Seniors Festival.

The theme of the 2021 festival is Keep’n On. It brings together a wide variety of appreciated and celebrated artists and aims to encourage a deeper understanding and appreciation of diversity among older people.

“The festival is a multicultural festival for seniors and the elderly,” Arden explained.

“The greatest thing about it is that you connect with your own community, but you also connect with the community at large.

“Multiculturalism is so important, we are all from here. Some of us are not First Nations people, but those who are here now make this country our country.

The festival will appear online again, having been changed to a virtual format in 2020 due to COVID-19.

The festival seeks to connect with communities and individuals who have experienced isolation due to COVID-19 lockdowns.

Arden has spent time creating and finding new ways to connect with those he loves.

“These days it’s just about trying to survive, there are a lot of setbacks but in the setbacks there are creative opportunities,” he said.

“New stories are coming and new things to write. Creating is exciting, but living can be difficult!

“My family, some of them live far away, but the key to message is now a phone!” All this technology and Facetime. You need to stay in touch this way to keep your head above water.

The festival has been redesigned this year to suit both online and radio audiences, and will see Arden perform songs from his recent release. Red Desert Man.

Red Desert Man sees Arden share the experiences of his childhood raised by four mothers and pays homage to his grandfather.

“The songs write on their own. I try to have as much power as possible to recover what assimilation has taken away, ”he said.

“Sometimes it’s about taking a step back and letting history write itself.

“I feel really good, it’s a story I wanted to share, it’s the story of my grandparents.”

Arden notes that the album also weaves his journey and that of his wife, recognizing his family and his cultural identity.

“He also talks about my wife, [she is from the] Arrest people. My Kokatha side and my wife’s side – it brings them together.

“His father was a stolen generation who was taken away from his mother, never had the chance to speak his language. He returned to his family; I wrote a song to show what it could have been if they hadn’t taken it.

With nearly four decades of experience in the Australian music scene, Arden is one of the greats.

He has worked alongside Archie Roach, Ruby Hunter, Bart Willoughby, Mixed Relations, Dan Sultan, Shane Howard, Paul Kelly, Not Drowning and Hunters and Collectors.

For Arden, telling stories through music was a natural instinct. Growing up listening to country music, Arden fell in love and spent a lot of time finding her marks and her own style.

“I grew up with country and western storytellers, you start to understand and learn this music, you fall in love with it,” he said.

“It’s an old traditional tradition for First Nations people, and it just feels right… Forty years ago, when I started, I was just trying to find out who I was.

Arden remembers his days working with No Fixed Address and the influence of rock and roll on his music.

“I remember the time with No Fixed Address they were called politicians, but the reality is life is politics,” he said.

“Music is based on life stories, and to me that’s what music is.”

The festival will see Arden perform alongside esteemed artists, musicians and playwrights.

Ian Braybrook of Castlemaine’s Radio 88 will also produce 4 radio documentaries that will feature performances and interviews with great Australian artists from the 1960s and beyond.

The Victorian Seniors Festival 2021 is an annual event funded by the Victorian government.

By Rachael Knowles

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