On the opening night of Koolbardi wer Wardong in October 2021, Gina Williams – who composed the score with Guy Ghouse and played a lead role – was beside herself with nerves.

Written for family audiences, Koolbardi wer Wardong tells the ancient Noongar story of the rivalry between Koolbardi the magpie and Wardong the crow. Premiered by West Australian Opera, it was performed in the Indigenous Noongar language with English surtitles.

Gina Williams and Guy Ghouse

Gina Williams and Guy Ghouse. Photo supplied

“Right up to the last minute I thought, ‘What if this is a mistake? What if this is an Emperor’s New Clothes moment?’ There had been so much fuss about it, I actually felt really sick on opening night, standing backstage going, ‘What if they don’t like this?’” says Williams.

She needn’t have worried. Koolbardi wer Wardong was a huge success, attracting a big audience in Perth, 30 percent of whom had never visited WAO before. It then toured regionally.

“I’m really passionate about my language and Noongar people and our stories, and I’m really passionate about music, so to be able to team up with the West Australian Opera and create a...