With deep roots in Australia’s Kimberley region, Kanakawa Nagarra (Olive Knight) shares her story of growing up with the Gooniyandi and Walmatjarri peoples of northwestern Australia. As the daughter of a half-caste father, she was nearly killed on the day of her birth, as was customary for half blood children in her community. Thankfully, she was spared by an elder and would follow her own path, full of hardship as she moved from mission to mission. Olive eventually found love and fulfillment, following her husband Jim’s passion for Indigenous rights, becoming a respected translator and community leader.
After Jim’s death, Olive’s singing and songwriting opened unexpected worlds of opportunity. From the early days in mission gospel choirs to finding her true voice in country western music, the blues, and rock ‘n’ roll of the day, Olive’s talent as a singer eventually led to collaborations with other artists and performers, many of whom sought her unique voice and ability to translate songs into her traditional language. In 2011, and again in 2019, Olive was invited to sing as part of Hugh Jackman’s Back on Broadway production.
Olive’s spirit and compassion continue to inspire as she speaks openly about the challenges of adopting young children in her mature years, and how she hopes to bring greater awareness of and prevention efforts to substance abuse, particularly fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, within Indigenous communities in Australia.
Olive Knight’s devotion to the preservation and sharing of Indigenous language and culture, and her love of music and poetry, will leave you optimistic in these unfamiliar times.