Chris Robinson | When the Sky Fell Down

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When the Sky Fell Down

by Chris Robinson

Formerly known as 1788 The Great South Land available to the public (on tape) via an educational resource and a special mix CD from the 1990's. Now fully remixed and re-recorded with new vocals, guitars, didgeredoo, new loops & national archive recordings
Genre: Rock: Rock opera
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  Song Share Time Download
1. A Time of Change
4:52 $0.99
2. The Waterway
2:50 $0.99
3. The Jails (Gaols) are Overcrowded
3:47 $0.99
4. A Great Advantage
1:42 $0.99
5. Bound for Botany Bay
2:29 $0.99
6. A More Suitable Place
1:37 $0.99
7. Hoist the Sail
1:37 $0.99
8. Kameraygal
4:34 $0.99
9. This Great South Land
2:07 $0.99
10. Bidjigal Man
2:56 $0.99
11. Arabanoo
3:01 $0.99
12. Real Name
2:58 $0.99
13. We Are Starving
3:03 $0.99
14. Bennelong
4:13 $0.99
15. A Whale of a Time
3:51 $0.99
16. Where Do I Belong
2:55 $0.99
17. Have You Heard
2:09 $0.99
18. Fish For Tools
1:21 $0.99
19. Lawlessness
3:23 $0.99
20. What is it in Your Law
3:19 $0.99
21. Nothings Going to Stop Our Dream
3:25 $0.99
22. Prologue (Duelling Didgeredoos)
3:19 $0.99
23. Ghost Track Bunjalang Elder Sings in the 1920s
4:43 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Visit for the free story and songbook.

Background Story Information

Ask Yourself...
What is Australia Day, Invasion Day, Survival Day, 26th January, 1788, and the years just before and after?

What happened between Aboriginal and European people in the first few years of Australia's colonisation?

Who lived in Australia and what did they think of Captain Cook, then Arthur Phillip and the First Fleet?

What did Captain Cook do when claiming Australia in 1770?

What did Joseph Banks say about the Natives to the planning committee?

What Aboriginal countries existed in the Sydney region? How were they different?

What did the King's orders have to do with the first kidnappings?

What was the real story about the disease introduced to Australia in 1789?

Why do most Australians not know about the first trade and the first war between the British and the Kooris in the 1790's? What was it like when Europeans were the minority?

Is our true history relevant to any current Australian racial issues?

The King's orders to Arthur Phillip. The arrival of the First Fleet into Aboriginal lands.

The kidnapping of Arabanoo and the smallpox epidemic.

Bennelong's story - his capture, escape, and the spearing of Arthur Phillip.

The first trade between societies, then Australia's first war involving Pemulwuy.

The conclusion of the musical story, brings the subject of Australia's indigenous peoples and the law, to the present day and issues for the future. All Australians need to know this story.

The musical and resource kit was endorsed by ministers for education of both main political persuasions, was a collaborative project with the Aboriginal Education Consultative Group, NSW inc, and won state finalist in the Youth category in the 1997 National Reconciliation Convention in Canberra.

Use of the musical was documented by the NSW state government in the video 1996 video "Nothing's Going to Stop Our Dream", supplied to all state schools. It began as a bi-centennial musical written by Chris Robinson and first performed by Wyong School children in 1988.

Key Benefits
Cross-curriculum education: HSIE, Music, History, Literature
Aboriginal and European perspectives
Endorsed by State Education Departments, and produced collaboratively with the Aboriginal Education Consultative Group
Recorded with some of Sydney's leading musical talent including John Bettison, Peter Northcote, Charles Hull, Martine Monroe, John Pryor and more. Performed with Aboriginal communities around Australia
License included with full version, for schools to perform the show for profit
NOTES from the Facebook and the Wordpress pages (with resource extract)

[Extract from the Story and Songbook - now available free at ]

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


Some ENDORSEMENTS (from the 1990's) include the following:








RE 1788 - The Great South Land Musical Resource Kit

I write on behalf of the Council to indicate that a meeting of the Council held in Adelaide on 11 September considered a report by our Secretariat staff on your musical educational resource kit entitled "1788 - The Great South Land".

I am pleased to advise that the Council endorses your kit as a useful and constructive educational tool for reaching young people about the wide range of issues arising from the arrival of British colonists in 1788 and their interaction with indigenous communities in what is now known as NSW.

The kit makes a contribution to understanding for young people of why the doctrine of "terra nullius" was historically wrong as well as legally wrong as recently determined by the High Court in Mabo case.

The Council wishes you will in your endeavours to promote your kit to as wide a range of educational institutions as possible and commends to you, for the future, to broadening the kit to wider geographic horizons.

Yours sincerely

Patrick Dodson


Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation 30 September 1994



21 July 1994


1788: The Great South Land

The New South Wales Aboriginal Education Consultative Group Incorporated (NSW AECG Inc) is pleased to endorse the school musical education kit 1788: The Great South Land and fully recommends this resource for use in Aboriginal Education at all levels.

It is the strong view of the NSW AECG Inc that Aboriginal Education must involve not only the appropriate education of Aboriginal students, but also and essentially the education of all Australian students about Aboriginal Australia. The NSWAECG Inc is happy to endorse 1788: The Great South Land for the contribution this kit can make to these objectives by presenting the Aboriginal side of the story of the events of1788 and after. This kit can make a significant contribution to achieving the goals of Aboriginal reconciliation by teaching students to understand Australian history from an Aboriginal point of view.

The development of 1788: The Great South Land has involved the advice of the NSW AECG Inc at all stages, and has been a model of the right way to develop education resources. The NSW AECG Inc commends Creative and Musical Resources for their commitment to appropriate consultative processes and to telling the truth about Australia.

The NSW AECG Inc is happy to endorse 1788: The Great South Land also because the quality and power of the music and the lyrics will attract students to learning about the real history and the real nature of this country and thus contribute to an Aboriginal reconciliation by encouraging al lstudents to learn the truth about Australia.

Linda Burney


(Ms Burney is now a Minister for the Department of Fair Trading in the State of NSW)


12 October 1993

From: Nigel Parbury, AECG


In my capacity as Research Officer for the New South Wales Aboriginal Education Consultative Group Incorporated (NSW AECG Inc) I have been involved with the production of the musical resource 1788: The Great South Land since 1991 when theproject concept was submitted to a meeting of the Metropolitan North Regional AECG which I attended.

I have regularly provided advice on behalf on the NSW AECG Inc to ensure that the resource is as culturally appropriate and authentic as possible, and on behalf of the NSW AECG Inc I will be involved in reviewing the final drafts of all materials of the resource.

On Thursday 30 September 1993 the resource was workshopped at the third Annual Conference of the Aboriginal Studies Association at Daramalan College, Canberra. The response from both Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal people involved in Aboriginal Studies was extremely positive. On the same evening excerpts from 1788: The Great South Land were performed at the Conference Dinner by students of St Mary's School, Erskineville. The audience response was extremely enthusiastic. On both occasions the quality of the music was seen as a prime attraction.

I have no hesitation in recommending 1788: The Great South Land as a most valuable resource with the potential to make a major contribution to Aboriginal Reconciliation, both through the power and artistry of its music and through the drama and education activities telling the real story of the 'settlement' of Australia. I commend 1788: The Great South Land as both excellent entertainment and a really effective education resource.

Nigel Parbury

Research Officer





From Di Grigg

To Chris Robinson

RE 1788 The Great South Land

I was very pleased to meet you recently at the National Aboriginal Studies Association Conference in Canberra and participate in your motivating workshop introducing the innovative integrated resource kit "1788 The Great South Land".

As an Aboriginal Education Resource Teacher within the Department of Education, Employment and Training of SouthAustralia and working in over twenty schools, I am very excited about this excellent resource

- a first in Australia.


I was very impressed by the trouble you had gone to, to ensure appropriate consultation with Aboriginal people had been effected - this is essential. I was equally impressed that you were anxious to ensure that appropriate terminology and language was modelled throughout the kit.

Without seeing the performance I was convinced that this was are source I wanted to share with my peers and their students.

The special mini performance shared at the conference reaffirmed my opinion. I thoroughly enjoyed the performance along with the rest of the audience. It was great.

The music is excellent and will really appeal to the children's sense of "cool". Congratulation, Chris you have really captured all the elements of music that children love!

The props and presentation were simple but innovative. These are ideally suited to the simple but distinguished costumes which enable the audience to identify roles quickly, so that the message is effective. I found it visually exciting.

I would like you to pass on my congratulations to the children who performed for us and the choreographers.

Would you please thank Chris Tobin for his valued contribution to your workshop and presentation. I realise the process involved in developing this kit has been tedious and time consuming but I would again like to congratulate all involved and wish you success in this venture.

Yours sincerely

Di Grigg

Aboriginal Education Resource Teacher


South Australia


then NSW DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION AND TRAINING on both extreme political persuasions wrote endorsements for this work around the time they agreed to a Reconciliation Process - and that process was interferred with from 1997 - 2007 under the rule of John Howard. His refusal to continue the inernationally recognised process for ten years was reflected in his refusal to "apoligise" which was meant to start the process. Times have changed and the process - as well as this learning program - have restarted in 2008.]



17th August 1994

Thank you for sending me 1788 The Great South Land.

I support this creative initiative, ...

Yours in Music Education

Mandawuy Yunupingu


Formerly: 1788 - The Great South Land

We hope you enjoy the songs!



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