Growing up in Mount Isa, being surrounded by my culture, it was inevitable I would hear and see this ancient instrument of our people. I was drawn to its sound and mystery, which took you to a certain place. I felt I was the humbug kid, hanging around my uncles and just wanting to be present with them and learn what they had to share: the gift of our culture, lore and customs.

William Barton

William Barton. Photo © Keith Saunders

I can be anywhere in the world and feel inspired by the landscape, but if I need to write an Australian theme, I take myself back to that landscape where I journeyed as a kid, being taken around by mum and dad, getting shown cultural sights of significance. That’s where dad [Alfred Barton] is buried now, out on Calton Hills [cattle] station, about 80 kilometres north of Mount Isa, right in the heart of Kalkadunga Country.

The powerful presence of my mum, Aunty Delmae Barton, has been amazing throughout my life. Growing up in Springsure, central Queensland, mum fell in love with the tenor Mario...