Inventi Ensemble enriches the live of Melbourne immigration detainees with music.


It was in early 2014 when Melissa Doecke and I were discussing the fact that as musicians, we spend so much time practicing and playing at home, and that surely we could be playing for people who might not have access to music as readily as us. This inspired us to contact the welfare and engagement coordinator at Melbourne’s immigration detention centres. Our initial plan was to bring in some of Melbourne’s many talented musicians to perform regular concerts for the detainees, but following our very first session, we realised the people in these centres had a burning desire to join in, not just listen!

After some generous donations and hunting, we were able to source instruments that people could use to join in. We have been running weekly workshops now for over a year in both of the detention centres in Melbourne and have seen how valuable it is for the detainees to have music in their lives and to be able to collaborate with us on a regular basis.

An average workshop will find us bringing in Inventi Ensemble musicians and multi-instrumentalists playing traditional woodwind, brass and string instruments to uillean pipes and percussion as well as Brazilian songs, irish tunes and much much more. With this diversity, we can present a mixture of performance, music activities and singing. The nature of these workshops is such that we have to be flexible to the mood and participants on the day. Some days, people just want to sing, some days bang a drum and some days simply sit and reflect and enjoy the music.

In the short time during the 1-hour sessions, we also encourage participants to bring their experience of music to us, which has resulted in veritable ‘mash-ups’ of Fauré’s Pavane with djembe accompaniment or Telemann Partitas getting a reboot with a dholak groove! Of course, some days we do miss the mark… a memorable moment was the decision to play an arrangement of Gabriel’s Oboe which for whatever reason had quite a few of the participants leave the room! But we brought them back in with another arrangement of The Beatle’s Hey Jude.

The power of the human singing voice has been a great tool in these workshops too. There is of course hesitancy when first asked to start singing, but the joy that comes from something as basic as rounds that manage to transcend language barriers is palpable. It never ceases to amaze us how effective it can be to do something as simple as playing a drum or learning a few notes on a recorder or belting out a new song with others or simply listening to people play.

We’re now looking for more people based in Melbourne who might be available on Mondays and Fridays at 11am to help us bring more music to these centres. The more you can bring, the better! We are open to all forms of music, from classically trained, to world music, choral experience and beyond!


The Inventi Ensemble are contactable on [email protected]