YarnUp 6: Tristan Field
November 13th, 2023
The YarnUp series, presented in partnership with Tribal Warrior Aboriginal Corporation, shines a light on the incredible achievements, knowledges, and philosophies of First Nations volunteers. In the sixth chapter, Tristan Field (Walbunja, Bidjigal, Sri Lankan) discusses his involvement with the arts, Culture, Community and more.
Even something as little as just ‘volunteering’ yourself and your time, you’re creating a small opportunity for change to happen.
Discover Tristan’s story today:
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers and listeners are advised, this series contains stories of a sensitive nature and images, voices or names of people who may have died.
Facilitated by Tribal Warrior Talent
My name is Tristan Field and I live on Gadigal Country in so called Sydney. On my Father’s side, I am Walbunja from the South Coast of NSW and Bidjigal from South Sydney. On my mother’s side I am Sri Lankan. I’m a composer, session guitarist, set builder, audio engineer, producer, and Cultural dancer. I’ve been involved in heaps of community initiatives, and I’m a Blackfulla who just loves to do stuff – especially in the arts.
I feel like I don’t just belong to one community; I feel like I belong to many. The diversity of my experiences come directly from my work and active involvement in community initiatives. I’ve been part of policy reform at the Queensland Council of Social Service, mentoring young leaders at the Queensland First Nations Youth Leadership Programme, and running work experience programs for high school students at the Sydney Opera House. All that has led me into different areas and some of the people I’ve mentored have gone on to do great things, which is amazing and makes me so proud.
Volunteering opened so many doors for me, leading to opportunities in the music industry.
From a young age I developed a keen interest in music and performing arts at the same as my passion for sports, particularly rugby. Sports took up all of my time back then. I juggled karate, rugby, touch, weightlifting, boxing and swimming. Even with all that going on, music was my constant companion. I remember being drawn to the world of audio and sound when I was just 10. It was around that time when I told my mum that I wanted to be a music producer like Timbaland. The inspiration I took from music at that time, really helped to shape my future.
My volunteering journey started early. At 15, I volunteered when my step-mum discovered a work experience program at Koori Radio. I took that opportunity and found myself working alongside Mark Ross and Jodie Choolburra at the time, now she’s Jodie Walsh. Mark, in particular, became my mentor, guiding me through the world of radio. Koori Radio was thriving at that time, and being surrounded by such passionate professionals was so inspiring. The whole experience not only set the stage for my career but also taught me invaluable lessons about volunteering and giving back.
Volunteering opened so many doors for me, leading to opportunities in the music industry. At the time, volunteering laid the foundation for my career, and it’s really carried forward and continues to be a guiding force in my life. It’s always been more than just providing a transactional service; it’s also about gaining experience, knowledge, and understanding. Those experiences were building blocks, strengthening my foundations for what lay ahead. To me, I wasn’t just learning; I was preparing myself for the future.
It’s about creating positive change, creating new connections, and supporting communities.
Once I moved to Queensland, I started a Cert 3 in Music at my new school and really poured my heart and soul into my guitar practice. That class gave me the opportunity to interact with other music professionals because of my music teacher, Mr Ken Bowden, such a beautiful man. He offered me to conduct an interview with Phil Emmanuel, the brother of the famous guitarist Tommy Emmanuel. This experience, basically gave me the opportunity to absorb so much more knowledge and to basically take all the advice that Phil and Mr. Bowden had given me as well, to then succeed and pursue what I wanted to do with my music.
Engaging with different communities allows me to understand their challenges and learn from what they are facing. When entering a new community, listening carefully and understanding the dynamics are a must. Learning from the past mistakes of others who have come before you as well, prevents repeating them. At the end of the day, taking these experiences back to my community ultimately becomes a source of inspiration, especially for the younger generation.
Volunteering isn’t just a choice; for me it’s a responsibility. It’s about creating positive change, creating new connections, and supporting communities. Balancing business aspects with community needs is crucial. It’s not about getting paid; it’s about understanding the depth of cultural preservation and the time it takes.
For First Nations and non-First Nations people, it’s about doing research, building relationships, and respecting boundaries.
Working in communities can be hard. You might come in for one job but then when you get there, you’re given six different things to look after. In some ways that’s just how things are in communities, you’re not just there for one thing, you’re always going to have to be doing like 10 different things. That’s just the nature of it if you want to become a part of a community, even for a small time. It’s about understanding that the people who live in communities have diverse lives, and by being open and getting involved, you’re respecting them and showing that you respect that diversity of their lives, and it’s then you’ll see they’ll show the respect back.
Travelling across different regions all the time comes with its challenges. Adapting to the different paces of life between city and Country life, and different communication styles can really test your energy. Each community has a unique identity and history, and while that’s exciting, there’s also the weight of hearing about their past traumas and negative stories.
Working with First Nations communities requires a huge amount of respect and understanding. As a First Nations person and a Cultural dancer with a background in business and production, I engage with different communities in different ways. Whether it’s performing or conducting Cultural workshops, I always tailor my approach to the community I’m working in.
For First Nations and non-First Nations people, it’s about doing research, building relationships, and respecting boundaries. Navigating Cultural business means understanding that each community is different. Find out who’s who, examine the relationships and organisations of the people you want to be involved with. There’s a whole bunch of things that you can do that will get you close to that community.
There are no quick fixes; it has to be a long-term commitment.
Understanding the cycle of change and being prepared for challenges is so important as well, because then you’re setting yourself up to learn. In the change cycle, there’s different phases. The first is pre-contemplation, so that’s where people are unaware that their behaviour is problematic, or they’re aware but have no desire to change. They’re not interested in the process. Then there’s contemplation, so that’s when they become aware that their behaviour is problematic, and they start to look at the pros and cons of the current behaviour. And then you’ve got preparation, so that’s when people are intent on taking action to address their problematic behaviour. So you know, they’ve got to identify what their goals are, they’re looking to start making some changes. And then you’ve got action. So that’s when people actively modify their behaviour, their experiences and ongoing change. It’s a time of intense commitment to the new behaviour. And then you’ve got maintenance, where people have sustained their new behaviour for a while, and they work to prevent relapse, right? And then there’s this other one where you’ve got relapse, which is like people start returning to their old behaviours. What we have to realise is that, you know, they might come in and they want to make a change. But they might relapse. You know, so in terms of when we work together as non- First Nations and First Nations people, we got to make sure that if we do come in, we’re not just there for the short term, we’re there for the long term, because, you know, the knowledge and the understanding of how to get in that cycle and make those changes for ourselves will happen as long as we maintain that. It’s about acknowledging the complexity of cultural preservation and integration with business. There are no quick fixes; it has to be a long-term commitment.
When you volunteer you’ve got to be prepared for the unexpected, embrace the chaos, and understand the responsibility and duty of care for yourself that’s involved. I guess that kind of goes back into like what I said before, is that, you’ve got to make sure that you’re aware of who you are, and making sure that you got your own supports and, I mean, it’s a common thing to say, but really making sure that you’ve got your own self-care as well, when you do this type of work.
I think it’s more about the little moments that can lead to big change.
Sometimes it can be frustrating when non-First Nations organisations see there’s funding for a project and think, ‘Oh, yeah, we’ll just put this money here. And we’ll just do this.’ And it’s like, no, it’s not going to work like that. Funding community engagement has to include collaborating with other First Nations businesses. For instance, they might consult a group experienced in traditional practices like a particular Mob from Northern Territory about crocodiles. Or if they want to learn more about their identity, and about themselves, you know, that’s when they can get someone like me onboard.
But in the end, I think it’s more about the little moments that can lead to big change. That small sense of connection between people that can only grow with time. You could be volunteering in a community or at a music festival, helping people find their way at night…Even something as little as just ‘volunteering’ yourself and your time, you’re creating a small opportunity for change to happen. And I think that’s it really, that’s why I love it. Just seeing how one selfless act can, with time, lead towards positive change between people.
To learn more about this project, visit our webpage, celebrating our partnership with Tribal Warrior Aboriginal Corporation.
Tribal Warrior Aboriginal Corporation website (Tribal Warrior) is a non-profit organisation founded and directed by Aboriginal peoples, with Elders from various NSW Aboriginal nations at its helm. For more information on their range of programs, cultural tours and experiences, visit the Tribal Warrior website.