Gus Williams (musician)

Kasper Gus Ntjalka Williams OAM (20 June 1937 – 13 September 2010), known as Gus Williams, was an Aboriginal Australian country music singer who lived in Central Australia. He was known not only for his work in Aboriginal country music, but also as a leader of his people. He created the first electric country band in the Northern Territory, the Warrabri Country Bluegrass Band.

Gus Williams
Birth nameKasper Gus Ntjalka Williams
Born(1937-06-20)20 June 1937
OriginHermannsburg, Northern Territory, Australia
Died13 September 2010(2010-09-13) (aged 73)
GenresAboriginal country music
Years active1960s–1990s
LabelsCAAMA, ABC Music


Kasper Gus Ntjalka Williams was born in Labrapuntja[1] on 20 June 1937[2][3] in Alice Springs, in the Northern Territory of Australia, one of 11 children.[4] He was an Arrernte man.[5]

The family moved to the Alice Springs Telegraph Station in 1945, where his mother took up a post as a house governess.[4] Gus did a variety of work in Alice, and also began playing Australian rules football. He played with Central Australian Football League clubs Pioneer, Federal and Rove.[4]

Around 1954, after both parents died when Gus was 17, he and siblings moved to Hermannsburg, in Central Australia, to stay with their grandparents,[1] Johannes and Maria Ntjalka.[6]

In 1958 he married Rhonda Malbunka, and children followed: Serena, Ingrid, Warren, Baydon and Debbie.[1] Warren H Williams became a country music star, and was also inducted into the Country Music Hands of Fame in 2009.[7]

He died on 13 September 2010,[4][1] and was given a state funeral by the Northern Territory Government.[8] Many tributes were read out in the NT Parliament.[1]


He initially became involved in evangelical Lutheran singing for family reasons; some of his great-uncles were evangelists, and his grandparents were among the first group of Aboriginal people baptised at Hermannsburg Mission.[6] Williams taught his sons guitar, and they all played together as a band. In the mid- to late 1960s, he sang with the church choir under Pastor Doug Radke, becoming its lead singer. In 1967 the Hermannsburg Choir toured to Adelaide, where they performed at the Adelaide Town Hall, as well as 12 other venues in regional South Australia and Victoria, and recorded an album.[6] During the tour, Williams, as compère and lead singer,[9] used his platform to make political statements and to help educate non-Indigenous audiences about Arrernte people and culture.[6]

His cousin, Albert Namatjira, brought other kinds of music to the community via a gramaphone, and Williams developed a love for Australian country music.[4] Williams formed his first band, Palm Leaves.[4]

In the mid to late 1970s, he toured remote communities with Herbie Laughton, and his sons joined him in the Warrabri Country Bluegrass Band.[1] In 1976[4] he moved to his mother's country,[6] Ali Curung (formerly Warrabri), becoming CEO of the council there and earning respect as a leader. He also created the first electric country band in the Northern territory, the Warrabri Country Bluegrass Band, and organised the inaugural country music festival,[4] first in Alice Springs and later in Ali Curung.[1]

In 1977, Film Australia made a half-hour documentary film called Country Outcasts, which followed Harry and Wilga Williams, along with Gus Williams, Malcolm "Mac" Silva, and Auriel Andrew as they toured Aboriginal communities in Central Australia. The tour included performances at Alice Springs, Hermannsburg, Papunya, and Yuendumu.[10][11][12]

Returning to Hermannsburg in the 1980s, Williams became involved in the land rights movement. Together with others, he led the successful push go get land returned from the Finke River Mission to the Ntaria Land Trust.[4] He became chair/CEO of the Hermannsburg council, a position he held for 30 years.[6][1]

He released six albums in the 1990s, and in 1993 visited the Tamworth Country Music Festival for the first time. He busked there with the Country Ebony band.[4]

Other rolesEdit

Williams was also a member or chair of many other organisations, including ATSIC, the Aboriginal Benefits Fund, the Central Land Council, Central Australian Football League, chair of the Hermannsburg Historical Society, and many others. It was said that Ngurratjuta, an organisation representing the Western Desert, was his favourite.[1]

He met Nelson Mandela, Queen Elizabeth II, and the Pope.[1]



Williams sang on Camp Fire Concert, a souvenir album released by Sundowner Safari Tour Company.[6]

Albums released by Williams are:[6]

  • I'm Not Trying To Forget – Ntjalka Music
  • My Kind Of Heaven (1993) – Ntjalka Music
  • Southern Cross (1993) – Ntjalka Music
  • Storm In My Heart – Ntjalka Music
  • Straight From The Heart (1992) – Ntjalka Music
  • Through The Years (1994) – Hadley Records


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "2010-10-21: Statement by Speaker: Death of Mr Kasper Gus Ntjalka Williams OAM". Northern Territory Government – Legislative Assembly. 21 October 2010. Retrieved 15 November 2022.
  2. ^ 'Legendary' Aboriginal singer gets state funeral, ABC News, 13 September 2010.
  3. ^ General report: Western Aranda Health Aboriginal Corporation Archived 6 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine, Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations, 2001.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "Gus Williams, 2000". Australian Country Music Hall of Fame. Retrieved 8 November 2022.
  5. ^ Hermannsburg (2) 1958 - 1959 Archived 21 August 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Gus Williams (1937-2010)". Hermannsburg Historic Precinct. Retrieved 16 November 2022.
  7. ^ "Warren H Williams, 2009". Australian Country Music Hall of Fame. Retrieved 8 November 2022.
  8. ^ Henderson, Anna (13 September 2010). "'Legendary' Aboriginal singer gets state funeral". ABC News. Retrieved 8 November 2022.
  9. ^ "The Hermannsburg Choir". Hermannsburg Historic Precinct. Retrieved 16 November 2022.
  10. ^ "Harry & Wilga Williams". eHive. Retrieved 4 November 2022. From Australian Country Music Hall of Fame
  11. ^ "Country Outcasts". NFSA Online Shop. Retrieved 5 November 2022.
  12. ^ "Country Outcasts (1977)" (video, 28 mins). Vimeo. 2 November 2022. Retrieved 5 November 2022.
  13. ^ "Mr Kaspar Gus WILLIAMS: Medal of the Order of Australia". Australian Honours Search Facility. Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (Australia). Retrieved 8 November 2022.

Further readingEdit