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Tony Minniecon has become a staple of the Aboriginal music scene. Regularly playing at community events, as well as working with Aboriginal youth, he is a familiar face to many.  

But this hasn’t always been the case.  

Tony is a Gubbi Gubbi, Gurang Gurang and Torres Strait Islander man, with connections to Embrem Island.  

Tony’s father was a diesel mechanic working for a multi-millionaire, when one day he had a realisation that “he had a calling, that he had to do more for his people”. He subsequently quit his job and became a youth leader and missionary. As such, Tony grew up playing the drums for the church from around nine years old, not a job, just something he “had to do for dad”. But it would eventually lead to singing. 

Tony had found himself in the back of an old dodge van his dad had purchased, as they road tripped it to Griffith’s, New South Wales, where the van subsequently parked at a show ground, ready for Tony’s dad, Rodney to help improve the lives of his people. 

Tony’s early music influences were Mo-town bands such as The Four Tops, as well as Slim Dusty, and Charlie Pride. His favourites been The Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, James Brown, Bob Marley and Marvin Gaye. 

 Regardless of Rodney’s good intentions though, it was still a hard life, recounts Tony. “I wasn’t an easy life for the Uncles and Aunty’s back then. Tony would routinely sit on the steps behind his home and see arguments unfold, only to watch as music gets turned up and bring peace to everyone. Aggression would disappear and everyone would start to dance and smile.  

Tony attributes this to music alone. 

Later, before moving to Adelaide, Tony went to the Aboriginal Theological College in Cootamundra, New South Wales, and then in his late teens moved to Adelaide. 

After moving to Adelaide, Tony began to attend Paradise Church and started to sing, and was eventually asked to join the band Cutting Edge. This experience took Tony across Australia to perform at venues such as the Entertainment Centre.

Tony Minniecon, photo by Travis Akbar

He then moved onto a band called Big Brother, and released an album, of which one single was named ‘Sister, be cool’. Years later, Tony recounted, “I walked into a shop in Marion shopping centre, I walked in there and I go, gee, I know that music, and it was me. And they had ‘Sister, Be Cool playing”.

Tony explained that playing original music back then was a tough sell, so Big Brother made their own version of the Sesame Street song to play at events to get their audience excited.

Following the breakup of Big Brother, Tony then joined another band and began playing overseas, in places like Jakarta on the Shangri-La Hotel circuits. Playing six nights a week, Tony recalled his vocals became really strong.

After this, Tony turned to band management and sent bands to other countries to play and since then, Tony has played with the same band he has in 2024 around and Adelaide and other places.

One of the highlights, Tony says, is when his current band was flown to New Zealand to play at the 50th birthday celebration of a billionaire.

Tony’s band, Sound Factory, played alongside other acts such as New Zealand artist L.A.B. and internationally recognised rock band Dragon.

His favourite gigs though, are when he play’s NAIDOC and other community events.

This relates to the way he was raised, seeing music calm and excite people. Seeing music bring happiness to his family and mob.

He loves to get on stage and play for community and see them dancing, smiling, and having a good time.

He’s even brought music into his child protection work, starting a choir for the kids in care he works with.

“Seeing my people getting up and dancing, just going off, getting a release, that’s what I like to see.” Tony says. “Just playing for those hours or two hours and giving them those two hours for themselves of just dancing and shaking it off and feeling relaxed. That’s what I like.”

To see Tony play with Sound Factory, keep up to date with their gigs on their Facebook page, here.

You can watch Tony performing at some of our past events, here.

Post by Team Writer
Jan 29, 2024 12:21:52 PM