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Literature/Interpreting song lyrics


Im15 and a year 10 student.  Ive been asked to annotate key lines and phrases in the song 'beds are burning' by midnight oil (1987), and interpret what the song might mean.  Im really confused and dont understand what the song actually means and how to annotate the phrases.  Your help would be greatly appreciated.

Hello Chey,

Wikipedia has an answer for you (at
"Beds Are Burning" is a protest song about giving native Australian lands back to the Pintupi, who were among the very last people to come in from the desert. These 'last contact' people began moving from the Gibson Desert to settlements and missions in the 1930s. More were forcibly moved during the 1950s and 1960s to the Papunya settlement. In 1981, they left to return to their own country and established the Kintore community, which is nestled in the picturesque Kintore Ranges, surrounded by Mulga and Spinifex country. It is a community with a population of about 400. Kintore and the town of Yuendumu are mentioned by name in the lyrics, as are vehicles produced by the Holden company.

So, the song is about how these Aborigines (as well as all of them, by implication) have had their original land and life-style taken away by the white people, and how it was wrong to do that, and that it is necessary to restore them to their land and make amends for having disturbed and disrupted their identity and life-style.

The assignment is intended to make you think about colonialism and post-colonialism; about how the spread of the Europeans to places like America, Africa and Australia has displaced and conquered the native populations of those areas, destroying or nearly destroying their cultures and life-styles. All white people share in the responsibility of these historical events, because we must all identify with the actions and behavior of our culture, no matter if it happened generations ago, and we must all contribute to make amends for the bad things that happened; for the people who were killed and displaced in the process of imperialism. It is important to know and understand your history.

Read more about these important concepts:

Imperialism is most often talked about in relation to America and Africa, but it applies just the same way to Australia, which was part of the British Empire.

A book on the same theme that you might benefit from reading is Walter Rodney's "How Europe Underdeveloped Africa", which is an eye-opening account of how Europeans have exploited Africa and Africans. I read this book in high school and it completely changed the way I look at the world. It is extremely important to know the history of these events.

Good luck with your reading and your assignment. The more you know and the more you read, the better an assignment you'll be able to do.

- Tue Sorensen


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Tue Sorensen


I am an authority on the complete works of Shakespeare, and can answer any questions relating to his plays, poetry and life. I specialize in interpretation, double-meanings and translation into modern language.


I was a top-rated Allexperts expert on this same subject several years ago.

Former member of the Danish Shakespeare Society, as well as an active participant in the scholarly SHAKSPER mailing list.

Three years of studying English literature at the University of Aarhus, Denmark

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