Written by Binna Burra

January 18, 2021

Support for inspirational bushfire recovery opera project.

Binna Burra Lodge is throwing its support behind Spirit Orphan, a contemporary chamber opera in development which responds to bushfire and evacuations in the Scenic Rim of the Gold Coast Hinterland in 2019.

On Sunday 8 September 2019, in the early months of the unprecedented ‘Black Summer’ bushfires across Australia, the heritage listed Binna Burra Lodge and pioneer timber cabins were destroyed. Over subsequent months, local communities in the Beech Mountain area were subject to further bushfires and evacuations from their households.

Spirit Orphan is the story of Scottish migrant and local Beech Mountain resident Jenna Robertson’s recovery from bushfire.

‘Opera is about dramatic stories being told through song and I am sure Spirit Orphan will relate to every community across Australia that has experienced the threat and impacts of bushfires’ said Steve Noakes, Chair of Binna Burra Lodge.

Robertson explains ‘Bushfire and evacuation provoked a deep exploration of my own migrant identity and ancestry in relationship to Australia’s colonial history’ explained Jenna. Spirit Orphan is a site-responsive and community-engaged opera for solo soprano, chamber ensemble and chorus, and creates questions about our origins, decolonisation and connection to place.’

The Spirit Orphan opera project will contribute to bushfire recovery and building awareness to promote connectedness, encourage support networks and social inclusion, minimise negative impacts, embrace opportunities to promote opportunities for sustainable economic recovery and promote preparedness and resilience to future disasters.

In 2020, Jenna raised all of the money for first stage of development of the Opera, which was completed in October 2020 and summarised in a compelling short nine + minute film1 by filmmaker Salvador Cantellano.[1] The short film will be displayed in the Queensland Museum at the end of March as part of an Exhibition for the World Science Festival Brisbane called Creative Climate Changers. 

For the next stage of development Jenna has already sourced $83,026 of the initial funding needed and now has only $9,088 left to go to raise the final funds to allow the next stage of the development of the Opera.

Jenna explains: ‘Encouraging is that the demand for the opera means the development is now supported by five incredible arts organisations and I have built a small team of some of the country’s most exciting opera makers. Making a new opera is like building a house in its complexity and magnitude, which can take 2-5 years and a number of stages.  It is an ambitious endeavour usually done by large arts organisations with organisational and financial resource. I have neither of these things, but I do have skills, experience and a compelling passion for this work that keeps me trailblazing.’

Noakes said ‘So, we’re on a mission now to help Jenna raise the $9,088 she needs to get her opera into the next stage of production. This will be a substantial legacy project to alert future generations about how bushfires amplify our connections to community and our local landscapes. It’s also an opportunity to bring the wonderful world of opera into the experiences.’

Tax deductible donations can be made at: https://australianculturalfund.org.au/projects/spirit-orphan-stage-two/

Jenna Robertson Tel: 0431 329 014     [email protected]
Steve Noakes Tel: 0418 774 295        [email protected]


About Jenna Robertson2

Jenna Robertson is a Scottish-Australian artist living on Yugambeh country in the Gold Coast Hinterland, working at the intersection of opera, community-engaged practice and interdisciplinary performance.   With a background including traditional opera performance, creative producing, arts leadership, chemical engineering and a fascination with spirituality, Robertson’s work as a contemporary performance maker leverages diverse knowledge and vulnerability to inspire individual action on complex issues.   Jenna is a Doctor of Musical Arts candidate at the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University, a Board Member of national peak body Performing Arts Connections Australia and one of the 2021 Australia Council for the Arts Future Leaders cohort. For more information visit www.jennarobertson.com

  1. https://vimeo.com/464814013/72ccd0c6ea
  2. www.jennarobertson.com/arts-leader

View latest events and activities

Related Articles



While camping at Binna Burra, a researcher from The University of Queensland has discovered a new genus of fluffy longhorn beetle. The freshly named Excastra albopilosa was found by University of Queensland School of the Environment PhD candidate James Tweed, who...



Sunday 3 March 2024 is the 90 year anniversary of the legal registration of Queensland Holiday Resort Limited, now known as Binna Burra Lodge Ltd. The 1930s was the decade shaped by a global economic and political crisis that culminated in World War 2.  Beginning with...