Laurel and I sat in the cinder- block broadcasting shed at the radio desk.
It was our third day in Barunga, a small Indigenous settlement in Aus-
tralia’s Northern Territory, broadcasting live radio from their renowned
annual sports and music festival— five days of concerts, contests, and
football games that drew Aboriginal and settler Australians from across
the Northern Territory. Laurel, a Yolngu radio broadcaster and trans-
lator from northeast Arnhem Land, was playing country and gospel
tracks and reading out the occasional request that was passed into the
shed on a handwritten note or called in from the council office via the
rotary phone stationed on the broadcast desk. And I was keeping her
com pany, both of us taking a break from the insistent sun and dust
outside.1
An old man came into the shed, wearing a plaid cowboy shirt,
jeans, and in bare feet. Would we send news to his niece in Galiwin’ku,
he asked, to let her know that her uncle had won the spear- chucking
contest? I’d seen him throw an hour earlier, following some tourist’s
efforts that, though earnest, went far astray. His was indeed an impressive
shot, putting the spear into a power ful low arc, carving it down a grass
fairway of sorts and right through the heart of a cardboard box standing
perilously close to some colorful polyester dome tents. Well- known In-
digenous actor and raconteur Tom E. Lewis was holding a microphone
and
mc-ing
the festival events. His voice led the loud collective cheer
that followed through his handheld
pa,
distorting its megaphone and
amplifying our collective excitement. Lewis had been working hard to
PROLOGUE Staging the Voice
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