With the sad death of Buried Country star Auriel Andrew on January 2 – you can read my full tribute to her on the BC website here – I’m at least pleased to be able to announce that, as she herself would doubtless have concurred, the show must go on!, and so with our appearance at the Port Fairy Folk Festival in March now confirmed, it’s reasonable to predict that that performance will one way or another be dedicated to her memory...
Auriel had had some health problems for a while but, typical of her, she brushed them aside in order to be part of the the first few Buried Country shows late last year. She died peacefully, surrounded by loving family and friends, on January 2 in hospital in Newcastle, where she was admitted in mid-December with advanced cancers spreading throughout her body. She was 69, and is survived by her husband Barry Francis, her children Serina and Reuben, 13 grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren and her sister Rhonda, plus the sprawling extended family that is a characteristic of Aboriginal life in this country.
She is survived also by her legacy: by the wonderful music she made all through her life, and the courage and dedication it took to make that music starting at a time in the late 1960s when Aboriginal people were barely seen or heard in broader Australia; she will be remembered and celebrated for that, by the great number of people who were touched by her and her music, and she will be remembered for her selfless generosity and the inspiration that that provided too; and she will never be forgotten for her cheeky sense of humour that even as I sadly squeeze out these words, can still bring a smile to my face!
Perhaps my abiding memory will be of Auriel after the Buried Country Newcastle premiere in August, presiding over the after-party, and as I understand it (since I went home relatively early), the last to leave! In retrospect, I can imagine now how much all that – and the subsequent shows we did at the Melbourne Festival and in Dubbo – must have taken out of her. But – again – I know she wouldn’t have had it any other way.
As at the very end – she did it her way. With pluck and stoicism, refusing to burden others. Sitting up in her hospital bed, still cracking wise! I loved her, like everyone did who was lucky enough to know her. She leaves as she lived, on the wings of a song…