Cairns through a Telescope

by Deb Suckling

After a few months break from touring and writing and a really busy 2015, we were extremely lucky to receive some funding from the Regional Arts Fund and the Australia Council to get back to what we love doing – spending time with families and writing their stories.

view from the plane
The Great Barrier Reef, our view from the plane, please help save it.


First stop on this year’s adventures was Cairns. It’s always exhilarating to get back on the road. There are also feelings of trepidation in meeting women and families and will we be able to meet their expectations of us. It’s extremely difficult to put into words sometimes the connections and meetings we have and the first time meeting with a woman or her family. Firstly – we have to gain enormous trust  – to be able to put that person completely at ease in sharing their story and ensuring that they feel comfortable speaking with us. I mean would you share your life story with a bunch of complete strangers who can be quite complex at times and who are about to put your life story into a song?

Performing at the Centre of Contemporary Arts, Cairns
Performing at the Centre of Contemporary Arts, Cairns

It is a big ask of anyone and we have the utmost respect for the women and families who share so openly with us. It is a privilege and we aim to protect these stories and do them as much justice in sharing as we can.

Someone recently said we are social workers with guitars – which essentially is what we are.

So back to Cairns. We only have two days to write songs locally and then perform a show – which of course we want to include the local stories as that’s such an important part of doing regional touring.It’s not a lot of time to work through a big story and turn it into a song that we and the person contributing their story feel comfortable with.

Sally ( not her real name) shared with us an enormous story. Probably one of the saddest ones we have heard to date – and there was two generations of PTSD that she was trying to process and come to terms with. For the sake of herself and her children – she needs to heal and she dearly hoped this process would assist with that.

It came as a burst – she had contained so much for so many years and hadn’t shared it with many people ever – she had some personal lyrics that she had written about her brother and it was really important for her to have these turned into a song – and rather quickly. Jackie did an incredible job with My Brother Bill and we look forward to recording this for Sally and her family. I ended up writing her personal story in about 5 minutes flat – it came to me so suddenly and quickly that I was really surprised. It came down to one piece of her story as a child – where she was given a telescope and I used that as a metaphor for her dreaming of escaping to the moon – which she often did as a child.

It is highly confronting playing a song to someone about their life an hour after you have met them – for both them and for us. Of course there are tears – many of them and we cry together – this time is was particularly hard. I had no idea if she would like the song I had written or if it would be too confronting. the lyrics are below to give you an idea:

Written by Deb Suckling

Years of drunken ANZAC days
Mother Falling to the floor
Her first love killed on the Black Cat Trail
My Daddy walked in through the door

won’t you fly me
fly me to the moon
won’t you fly me
fly me to the moon

All the lies locked in the cupboard
they’ve been kept inside for years
The time has come to set them free
To live with no more fear

won’t you fly me
fly me to the moon
fly me
fly me to the moon

Now they both lie down deep in their graves
But we are left still hear to fight
The daily fighting for our minds
I want to say goodbye

so won’t you
fly me
fly me to the moon
fly me fly me to the moon


I think she really loved the song – she bought her family to the show but they missed me singing the song – so afterwards we sat in the greenroom and I played it for her and her daughters and her husband – again – it’s difficult to put into words what this moment was for her family and for myself. I don’t think her daughters knew anything of her trauma’s – she knows she will need to tell them and that’s a good thing.

I got an email this week – saying how she was going to see some of her family that she hadn’t seen for years – to try and mend the broken bond – and to say thank you. I hope it all works out and some of the broken pieces can be mended. Is it so simple as writing someone a song? No it’s not. It about listening and being with a complete stranger and hearing about their lives and trying to show compassion and understanding and warmth and love and help them realise that someone really cares about their trauma. Holding a strangers hand and giving them love is not a hard thing to do. It’s a lot easier than you think – nurses, doctors, paramedics, firemen do it every day of their lives. We all have the capacity to help people heal and music has such a great power to do this.

There are more stories from Cairns – but they are for the other girls to write. Stay tuned.  In the mean time, here is a couple of pics of two special ladies who are part of this project. Ms Jackie Marshall and Emma Bosworth ❤


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