Primary school student Henrietta Barker, 11, pens powerful song for the Stolen Generations

Young talent: Warrnambool Primary School student Henrrietta Barker, 11, pictured with teachers Thomas Fraser and Gina Mills, penned a powerful song to the Stolen Generations. Picture: Chris Doheny
Young talent: Warrnambool Primary School student Henrrietta Barker, 11, pictured with teachers Thomas Fraser and Gina Mills, penned a powerful song to the Stolen Generations. Picture: Chris Doheny

A POWERFUL performance from a primary school-aged student this week marked for many, a wider shift in Aboriginal education in classrooms.

Wise beyond her years, 11-year-old Henrietta Barker moved crowds to tears when she performed her original song dedicated to the Stolen Generations.

With her small guitar in hand, she stood strong and unwavering next to music veteran Shane Howard at the Lighthouse Theatre as she played her song 'Sorry Couldn't Come To Soon' on Sunday night.

Henrietta was inspired to write the song during Reconciliation Week last year.

"My teacher, Mr Fraser, asked our class to research and do a project on what we learnt," she explained.

"I felt very deeply about what I discovered and my song reflects those emotions."

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The profound song moved audiences to tears, including Howard, who asked Henrietta to perform the song after he was invited to hear it at her school in Warrnambool, Victoria.

"I was moved to tears when she sang," Howard said. "That was what she created from her understanding of what happened to the Stolen Generations.

"It's a beautiful gift from a young person back to the older people of this community.

"It was a very powerful moment and measured a lot of change for me personally, to hear it from the young people and to see them learning from curriculums and teachers."

The real and lasting and meaningful change comes from these things being taught at a young age.

Shane Howard

Henrietta was 10 when she wrote the song during remote learning last year.

"First Nations children were ripped from their families, " Henrietta said.

"I imagined what I would have felt like if it had happened to me; how alone and scared I would have felt.

"It wasn't right and it wasn't fair. It wasn't just the separation from their family, it was the conditions they lived in afterwards.

"I feel that we should have said sorry long before 2008."

Shane Howard was "moved to tears" when he was invited to Warrnambool Primary School to hear Henrietta's song.

Shane Howard was "moved to tears" when he was invited to Warrnambool Primary School to hear Henrietta's song.

Music has always been part of Henrietta's life; her parents said she'd been singing "before she could walk".

She was just six-years-old when she wrote her first song without music and eight when she wrote her first song with lyrics and music.

"The music came when I got my first instrument, I couldn't put it down," Henrietta said.

"Music is my happy place. I feel great when I'm making songs and to be honest I don't have a favourite thing about it. Everything blends together to make a perfect world for me while I'm playing music.

"It makes me feel happy to know that my song spoke to people the way I intended it to."

This story 11-year-old girl moves crowds 'to tears' with song for the Stolen Generations first appeared on The Standard.