There are so many interesting people involved at Radio Blue Mountains both behind the mic and behind the scenes, that we thought we’d share their stories here on the RBM website.

Meet Dr Lana Leslie, host of Burrulaa Yugal, Mondays 10am – 12pm.

Dr Lana Leslie

Q: Hi Lana, thanks very much for taking the time to speak with us.

A: You’re most welcome.

Q: Let’s get straight into it Lana. You’re a Kamilaroi woman with ancestral ties to Coonabarabran and Moree, NSW. Tell us a bit about where you grew up and your family background?

A: On my Dad’s side, my Grandmother was born in Terry Hie Hie outside of Moree and my Grandfather Forked Mountain, Coonabarabran. I also have mob from Gunnedah and Western Sydney. I grew up off Country in Warren and Bathurst. 

Q: Since 2015 you have lived on Dharug and Gundungurra Country in the Blue Mountains. What was it that drew you to the Mountains?

A: I’ve always loved Dharug and Gundungurra Country and have visited many times prior to moving here. How could you not love it? Healing Country, beautiful nature, not to mention the easy-going lifestyle.

Q: You’re the founder and Managing Director of Gunnedah Hill, an Aboriginal Management Consultancy based in the Blue Mountains. 

Where does the name come from? What or where is Gunnedah Hill? 

A: Gunnedah Hill is a real place outside of Coonabarabran. This is where my Dad grew up with many other Aboriginal families. Picture shacks with dirt floors with no electricity and a well to cart water. 

Q: Your full title is Dr Lana Leslie. Is that from a doctorate in medicine, or cultural studies . . in other words where does the title come from?

A: I have a PhD from Macquarie University in Human Geography in Aboriginal Health and Wellbeing. 

Q: Your work with Gunnedah Hill focuses on reconciliation, cultural safety and providing professional development to organisations.  What would a typical working week look like?

A: It changes from week to week, depending on my clients’ needs. This includes meetings to work with Reconciliation Action Plan Working groups, teaching cultural safety and other workshops, mentoring Chief Executive Officers and Community Development Workers and working on special projects. I also work at the University of Sydney supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students with their postgraduate studies.

Q: As a Kamilaroi woman, how were you affected by one of the biggest moments in modern Australian history, namely former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s formal apology on behalf of the government to the Stolen Generations?

A: I remember I was working as an Academic at Macquarie University at the time. There was a huge crowd gathered to watch the apology. Everyone was very quiet and some were crying. It was very emotional. I thought it was incredible – it almost didn’t feel real at the time. 

Q: Do you feel anything has improved since the speech? 

A: The apology was significant and contributed to the ongoing healing of the many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who were forcibly removed and their families and communities. 

Actions speak louder than words though. 

A National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families was established in 1995. For a couple of years, the National Inquiry gathered stories from hundreds of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across Australia and various organisations.  The Bringing them Home report was published in 1997 with 54 recommendations. Has anything improved? Many recommendations have not been implemented, and many survivors, their families and communities remain to be impacted from the oppressive policies of the time…and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are still removed today at a high rate. It is good to see various organisations focussing on healing, support and resources such as the Healing Foundation and the Kinchela Boys Home Aboriginal Corporation.  

Q: Moving on now to your role as presenter on RBM of your show Burrulaa Yugal on Monday mornings. First of all what does Burrulaa Yugal mean and which language is it from?

A: Burrulaa Yugal means ‘Many songs’ from my Kamilaroi language.

Q: Your show celebrates First Nations peoples and music, including current issues and education and you’ve had great success in bringing many varied and interesting guests on to your show. Have you found people willing to get their story heard or does it take a bit of cajoling on your part?

A: I love having guests on the show and it takes a lot of time to find potential guests. Many say they are too shy to be on radio and flat out refuse, but others are willing to have a yarn about what it would involve. I usually meet with potential guests over a coffee or a meal to yarn about the show. I work with them on a topic, and questions they are comfortable me asking them. I also ask them for some song requests and the meanings behind their requests. Shows with guests involve a yarn with songs integrated into the mix. I don’t have guests all the time due to the time taken.

Q: When you have gone on air to cover for presenters who can’t get in, you’ve had a great reaction from people who’ve loved your music choices. Have you enjoyed going into the station and just spinning some tunes and what sort of music are you into?

A: I love radio and the ability to share music. I’ve been putting together and sharing playlists since my early teenage years so I feel like I’ve been doing it forever. Road trips always means a playlist, so I have a large collection of songs connected to places. 

I like helping other presenters to cover for them if they can’t make it in. Today (Sunday) I covered a 8am to 10am show and I played a lot of smooth and relaxing tracks to suit the day and timeslot. 

I’m into a lot of different music. I love First Nations music fromAustralia for example contemporary artists such as Miiesha, Yirrmal, Bumpy, Budjerah, Dan Sultan, Barkaa, Baker Boy, Pigram Brothers, Moju, Jessica Mauboy, Thelma Plum and many more….then there are the artists who have created enduring masterpieces such as Uncle Archie Roach. I love a good collaboration and covers of older tracks brought back to life as well.

I’m loving the new (2023) ‘Solid Rock’ with Goanna, Moss, Tasman Keith with a deadly Yidaki (Didgeridoo) solo by William Barton.

Apart from First Nations music from Australia, where do I start? Fleetwood Mac, Lenny Kravitz, The Divinyls, Blondie, Crowded House, Billie Eilish, INXS, The Eagles, Adele, Prince, The Beatles, anything Motown, Bee Gees…and many more! I also don’t mind those big power ballads that are great to listen to and sing with on roadtrips such as Turn me loose by Loverboy or Waiting for a girl like you by Foreigner. I also love music from old musicals such as from Rodgers and Hammerstein such as from Showboat, South Pacific. I also love tracks with messages including those of protest – think Midnight Oil.

I could go on forever – I love music so much!

Q: What was your favourite Saturday activity as a teen in Bathurst? Were you out playing sport or were you trawling record and book shops?

A: Both. I played a lot of netball but also rode my bike a lot and hung out with friends. Musically, I started playing the guitar and sang all the time. I also performed in school musicals and bought records and spent a lot of time learning lyrics and facts about songs and artists. 

Q: Can you remember the first record you bought?

A: I think it was either True Colours by Split Enz or Purple Rain by Prince.

Q: Once you bought that record did you follow that bands career and buy each of their next releases?

A: Yes – I was super keen (and still am) of following artists whether they are solo or part of a group or their various collaborations. 

Q: So teenage Lana leaves school, and what next? University, TAFE, an apprenticeship, a job?

A: I wanted more than anything to go to NIDA (National Institute of Dramatic Art) to continue to sing, act and create music but it wasn’t to be. Family influences took me on a different path and I joined the NSW Police Force as a Police Officer. It was never in my mind to join but I figured if I couldn’t live my dream, I’d just do what was suggested to me. In hindsight I should have forged ahead by myself but it wasn’t to be.

Q: And where did it lead you?

A: After 8 years in the Police, I went to University and worked in sport and recreation in local, state and Australian Government. At the same time I worked as a Group Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer for over 20 years on a casual basis. This casual job was always on the side of my full-time job and here I continued my love of music and performance but in a different way. I also worked in higher education (universities), community development and have worked in senior leadership roles over time.

Q: 8 years ago you came to the Blue Mountains. When do you think you first became aware of RBM?

A: Through listening to RBM.

Q: And how did it come about that you became a presenter at the station?

A: I was facilitating a yarning circle at the cultural centre in Katoomba in 2022 and Paddy Leonard, a current presenter, was there working. We got yarning and he asked me if I’d be interested in being a presenter. I thought ‘why not?’ as I saw it as an extension of my love for music and education.

Well, your show is very well put together. Thanks very much for the work you put into it. Now, like all of our interviews Lana, it’s time for some rapid fire questions. Ready?

A: Ready – Fire away!

Favourite Band? Fleetwood Mac

Favourite Song? Dreams by Fleetwood Mac

Favourite Music era? So hard to pin it down as I love it all. If I have to go with a couple of decades, I’d say 70s and 80s.

Favourite night out 30 years ago? Going to clubs and dancing all night

Favourite night out today? Dinner, show, or if staying in with my husband over dinner and watching something off Netflix or some other platform.

Favourite Film? Forrest Gump or anything goofy with Adam Sandler

Favourite Film Director? Quentin Tarantino

Favourite Actor? Adam Sandler

Favourite sport? Tennis

Favourite food? Seafood

Favourite Drink? Chai

Favourite holiday destination? Anywhere in Italy

And finally Lana, complete this sentence: “If I won a million bucks tomorrow I would . . . . . 

Pay off the mortgage, buy my Dad a house and go travelling with my lovely husband (flying first class of course) around the world, for an extended period of time. 

Thanks very much for giving us your time.

You’re welcome.