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1788/When the Sky Fell Down | Background Information

When the Sky Fell DownAll songs are now uploaded to You Tube as of January 2010.

Suitable for school use.

Please share this main link with teachers or schools:

C.J. Robinson t/as Breakaway Publishing (Australia) Musicartstar (online music label)



[Extract from the Story and Songbook]

Our tale begins at opposite ends of the Earth and tells of encounters between two vastly different cultures. These events shaped the history of Australia as we know it.

1788 was a time of dispossession and change. Aboriginal and European people were forced together in the midst of cruelty and destruction never known in this land.

We will journey from the very first encounters, through desperate times of disease and starvation, to the important first communication and an undeclared war. We explore decisions which resulted in long periods of injustice.

The struggle to survive these times of immense change for our ancestors is expressed here. As we share their hopes and fears, we face the challenges of our own times and our new beginnings in this, our Great South Land.


1. Time of Change

Aboriginal spirituality had ways to explain everything. In the years following Captain Cook’s visit, stories spread along the east coast of Australia. This song is based on a story that the sky was collapsing from the east. The story came from the Yarra region around Melbourne.

2. The Waterway

Reflects the harmonious land management and lifestyle of Aboriginal people living around the waterways of the ‘Sydney’ area. These people were quite different from their friends and enemies who lived in the western area now known as the outer metropolitan area.

3. The Gaols Are Overcrowded

Joseph Banks and the ministers in England discuss a solution to the convict problem. They show their attitude to Australia and its peoples. Derived from actual transcripts of the Select Committee on the Transportation of Felons 1787. Makes reference to ‘Terra Nullius’ and ‘Terra Australis’.

4. A Great Advantage

Based on Arthur Phillip’s own ‘views on the conduct of the expedition’. It reflects his intention to carry out the King’s orders to enter into discussion with ‘the natives’ and win their affections, but Aboriginal people avoided the settlement. Eventually Phillip used force to begin his “discussions”.

5. Bound for Botany Bay

Two verses and choruses of the old favourite – with three verses added, bringing the story up to the landing at Botany Bay in 1788.

6. A More Suitable Place

Arthur Phillip and the officers look for a better place than Botany Bay. The crew and marines stay behind and sample the rum stores.

It is decided that the new location will be Port Jackson.

7. Hoist the Sail

Soldiers, sailors and convicts reboard the First Fleet ships to move to Port Jackson.

8. Kameraygal

Kameraygal people, whose land is on the northern shore of Port Jackson, sing of themselves, their world and their spirituality. They are a waterway community and neighbours to the Cadigal on the other side of the harbour. While the peoples were quite distinct, they all shared a common respect for the Land, and the Law – including each other’s land boundaries. A Kameraygal man named Arabanoo later became the first Australian to be kidnapped by the Europeans.

9. This Great South Land

The Europeans begin the task of building but in their building, they are changing the land and destroying sacred places without permission. They have no idea of Aboriginal spiritual beliefs or boundaries and they don’t care, as their own troubles are so great. Convicts labour to chop down trees and break up rocks. Untrained and unwilling soldiers oversee their work, drink and complain.

10. Bidjigal Man

The Bidjigal people sing of the coming of the Europeans. The song introduces Pemulwuy, who later became the first to lead organised war against the European invasion. Pemulwuy was a Clever Man known to all Eora (people) of the region. Mystery still surrounds Pemulwuy. It was believed that he could not be killed by white people’s weapons. Until recently he was written out of history.

11. Arabanoo

Arthur Phillip uses force to try to learn the language of Aboriginal people. Under his orders Arabanoo, a Kameraygal man, is kidnapped and taken to ‘Sydney’, the land of his enemies, the Cadigal. The Europeans try to show him British justice – to his disgust. He is held in high regard and admired by his captors.

12. Real Name

The words of a Jack Davis poem are used here to portray Arabanoo’s sadness after being removed from his home and losing his identity. It was at this time that smallpox killed most of the local Aboriginal population.

13. We Are Starving

The colony’s food resources dwindle. Crops fail. Rations are cut and food is rancid, as they await the lost Second Fleet. Arthur Phillip decides to kidnap two more Aboriginal people in the hopes of learning how to find food.

14. Bennelong

The kidnapping of Bennelong and his popularity in the colony. Concludes with his escape after six months.

15. Whale of a Time

Kameraygal, Cadigal, and Bidjigal people were present at the very special occasion of a beached whale at the bay of Kayumay – now called Manly. The song expresses the celebration of plenty. The Governor and his party turn up. Negotiations follow but Phillip is speared.

16. Where do i Belong?

(Bennelong’s Dilemma)

After the spearing Bennelong wonders about his role in the two worlds. How does he deal with the strangers? The British officers gave Bennelong the message that Phillip was not angry with him.

17. Bennelong’s hut

Phillip and Bennelong reconcile and become friends. Phillip sends gifts to Bennelong and even builds him a house on request, at ‘Bennelong Point’ (now the site of the Sydney Opera House). The Kameraygal and Bidjigal are more suspicious and sing of what is happening – how strange it is.

18. Fish For Tools

Trading between Aboriginal and European people happens for the first time by supplying each other’s needs. These terms of trade are short lived.

19. Lawlessness

McEntire, Phillip’s gamekeeper in charge of trade, is punished by Pemulwuy for his cruelty and his trading of rum for meat. Phillip decides to punish Pemulwuy’s whole community. Two punitive expeditions are sent out with orders to cut off heads or take prisoners and bring them back to be hanged. Nobody is captured.

20. What Is It In Your Law?

Aboriginal people question the law of the British who they see as invaders and lawbreakers. They know and keep their ancient Law which is vastly different to the laws of the British. Their sentiment in the final verse can be shared by the convicts, to express the injustice of the time, or simply for all who experience or know injustice today.

21. Our Dream

The poem ‘This Is Our Land’ by Jack Davis, is used for the verses of this song. It is a statement of identity with the land and the resistance which began with Pemulwuy and has continued for over 200 years through those who have fought for justice. This dream continues. The Dreaming will never disappear.




Christopher John Robinson CJR writer, singer, guitarist, teacher, lyricist, producer of the work. Strongly influenced by artists like Bob Dylan, Roy Harper, Joni Mitchell, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Woodstock, Sunbury, Narara etc, first self-produced an LP album of 10 songs “The Journey” and released it via EMI custom records in 1983. The album sold at various gigs in winebars and pubs etc and only achieved community radio airplay at the time. (It was never re-released but some of the songs pop up occasionally at the reverbnation page when requested.)

In the early 1980’s Chris also wrote, produced and distrubuted the first version of “The Entrepreneur Card Game” (a satirical and very addictive game) in Australia in 1984.

Trading as Creative and Musical Resources, he released Stories Songs and Seasons (an educational resource of 21 singable songs for selected schools) while working in schools, then composed and produced a 21 song Rock Musical as an Australian Bicentennial Project in 1988 which grew to become a national movement between 1993 and 1998 via an educational resource which coincided with common national curriculum and integrated learning practices. It sold directly to schools (with endorsement from the NSW AECG Inc and a host of educationalists, state ministers and Aboriginal representatives) along with the rights for schools to produce their own shows or just impliment an effective teaching/learning resource in school.

Several thousand 1788 kits were sold and hundreds of schools performed the show in their own way. Other performances involved whole communities and combined school shows of the musical now released (in 2008) as When the Sky Fell Down.Two notable combined performaces in NSW were the Taree region combined schools shows (1996) mostly organised by Kevin Davidson (and thanks to Pat Dodson, became subject of the Department of School Education video Nothing’s Going to Stop Our Dream, also presented to the National Reconciliation Convention in Canberra 1997 where it was state finalist in the category of “youth” in the awards) and the Central Coast regional combined schools and interagency shows of 1997, mostly organised by David Pross, which brought together many adversarial sectors of education and politics as well as “black and white” sectors. Video clips from both shows are used to accompany the new music from the album, in the updated classroom video clips at the You Tube page.

In 1998 Chris teamed up with Steven Davis and Kevin Duncan (Aboriginal artists) and recorded several original works. Kevin later joined in with the re-recording of tracks in 2006/7 for When the Sky Fell Down (1788) in 2008. Steven performed as Bennelong in the Central Coast performances of 1998, which were mostly used in the song video clips at There are some tracks featuring Steve Davis on didgeredoo (WSFD prologue) and another co-written with Chris and featuring on the music page ( Steve Davis’ featured song is Create the Dreaming written in 1998 when the shows were being performed around Australia by different communities.

From 2000 to 2005 Chris worked with various artists in recording and co-writing. Research and development for the new version of the 1788 The Great South Land interactive (When the Sky Fell Down) project began in 2006.

Some involved musicians include Abi Nathan (blues guitarist and recording engineer, Charles Hull (remember Jon English and Marcia Hines?), Nathalie Wilson (singer), Brad Salmon (guitarist on “Holy Grail Mix”), John Prior (remember Matt Finish?), Peter Northcote (main album guitarist, still rockin everywhere) and John Bettison (main album male vocalist from first 1788 edition – still rockin), Pamely Young (Aboriginal worker sings Kameraygal on City of Sydney Birani site), Scarlett Flake (Jay Harnetty main female vocalist on the new album and a brilliant fine-artist). There are also several unofficial remixes of Beatles and Bob Dylan which are sometimes on the reverbnation (myband) page. Over the years Chris developed several experiments in sound sometimes shared online, and plays guitar, flute and bluesharp as well as computer based instruments in a Cubase virtual studio.

The rock musical (WSFD) from the educational resource (1788) now incorporates new loops, guitars, flute, more vocals, Aboriginal Elder sounds, some new Didgeredoo, a special guest appearence by Lee Harnetty (vocals on track 16) with artwork by Harnetty.Art

For more information, follow A White Dingo ( or or



A word on the current MP3 file information

ThThe MP3s for free download are at 128kbps with encoded lyrics and story text from the resource file “Story and Song Book”. Later i may produce a higher quality MP3 to replace these files if there is a demand or specific request from this service. So far, all customers have found this bitrate acceptable. If you require the highest (inaudible) quality files in the meantime, please purchase from itunes, amazon (a title search will find it) or use the online distributer at -> ~ but those MP3’s don’t have the lyrics and story in the file-info as these freebies do. Either way, the Ayos sharelink has the main school document with everything but the script and sheetmusic book, and its free for educational and private use.. no catches.. no spam. Further use can be discussed directly at and we accept paypal donations.

Please enjoy this album – a piece of my history. (the WSFD album with more info and endorsements) (free music sharing page) (main school access site)

Thanks for finding ~ please share the free resource links with a teacher, or share any songs you like with friends who might also enjoy. That’s why its here… We hope you like our remixes and revisions!!

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