How Uncle Karno Discovered CASM

Uncle Karno first became aware of The Centre for Aboriginal Studies in Music (CASM) when he and his friends came across some CASM students in the Adelaide CBD Parklands. Uncle Karno had been camping in the Parklands that night and what he and his friends saw surprised them. Uncle Karno had only ever come across Classical Music being played on TV, or on the Radio, this is the first time he had ever seen Blackfellas playing classical music. Uncle Karno was intrigued by this rare sight, and the classical instruments they were playing with.

Uncle Karno walked into the CASM building the blackfellas were playing in front of and introduced himself to those there, and discovered that they were relative’s of his, one was a teacher at CASM and she was playing Trombone, other relative’s were playing Piano, Violin etc.

The Teacher, Karno’s Aunty, explained to him what CASM was all about, she agreed with Karno that she could not see him being interested in learning classical music. Karno was however interested in Rock and Roll. She fought hard on Karno’s behalf with CASM to get an Electronics Music section as a unit of CASM.

Once the Electronics Music Section at CASM was formed Karno and his friends were able to become students and learn how to play music for their newly formed Rock and Roll band.

A Brief History of CASM and the Electronic Music Unit

The Centre for Aboriginal Studies in Music (CASM) was cofounded by Catherine Ellis and Karno’s Aunty Leila Rankine, a proud First Nations Woman from Karno’s home town of Raukkan.

CASM was born out of what was previously known as the Adelaide Aboriginal Orchestra, initially CASM’s focus was on Classical Music, Karno’s Aunt Leila fought hard for the formation of an Electronic Music Unit and Karno’s band was the first to come out of this new unit.

Once news of CASM and the formation of the Electronic Music Unit spread, students came from all over the country to study there.

CASM has had a major affect on First Nations and Australian Culture with many of Australia’s most famous First Nations Musicians being former students of CASM.

Centre for Aboriginal Studies in Music Wikipedia page

The Band Uncle Karno and his friends formed in CASM

Uncle Karno formed a band with Snookey Varcoe, Gladys Knight and others at CASM called Muttaruk. His Aunty Leila fought hard on Uncle Karno’s behalf to form the Electronics Music Unit so he could learn how to play in an electric band. she was not too happy when she discovered that the name of the band was Ramindjeri for Crabs, something that Karno and his band mates found a little amusing. Aunty however was not so amused after she fought so hard to form the Electronics Music Unit to find out that this was the name of his Electric Band.

Once Karno and the band he and his friends formed, other bands were created soon after at the CASM Electronics Music Unit such as, Us Mob, No Fixed Address, Coloured Stones and many more since.

Uncle Karno’s Security Work for CASM

Uncle Karno’s South Australian Aboriginal Security Team was initially created to do security work for CASM concerts and events and was born out of Karno’s love for Music and Martial Arts. His security business expanded to do work across South Australia and Interstate.

Uncle Karno featured on The Festival Theatre Mural

First Nations Artist Carol Ruff unveiled her Festival Theatre Mural “Aboriginals Discovered Captain Cook” in 1982. This Mural was up on the Festival Theatre for 10 years.

Carol’s mural was the first ever wall length Mural to be allowed to painted on this Adelaide Cultural Landmark. Uncle (Lance) Karno Walker was featured on the Adelaide Festival Theatres Wall Mural, the pictures on this page are from that mural.



Uncle Karno’s relationship with CASM staff

Aunt Leila Rankine the CASM teacher who introduced Karno to CASM was not the only person Karno had a close relationship with,  Doug Petherick, one of the Faculty teachers, he and Karno were good friends.

You can listen to Uncle Karno talking about his Aunt Leila in the Brenda Gifford NFSA audio interview, and watch the interview Uncle Karno’s wife Christine did with Doug on YouTube below.



Brenda Gifford from the National Film and Sound Archive’s Indigenous Team Interviews Uncle Karno

Brenda Gifford from the National Film and Sound Archive’s Indigenous Connection Team Interviews Uncle Karno about his experiences with CASM (Centre for Aboriginal Studies in Music) on 16th of October 2013 as part of the CASM Oral History Project.

Uncle Karno discusses how he first came to know about CASM, his involvement with CASM as a student, and the band he formed with other CASM students.



Other CASM Oral History Project interviews conducted by Brenda Gifford can be requested from the National Film and Sound Archive in Canberra.

Aunty Christine interviews Doug Petherick a member of the teaching Faculty for The Centre for Aboriginal Studies in Music

Aunty Christine interviews Doug Petherick a member of the teaching Faculty for The Centre for Aboriginal Studies in Music about his friendship with Karno. Doug auditioned for his faculty position at CASM by playing with Uncle Bunna Lawrie (founder of band Coloured Stone).

Uncle Karno was one of the students on the appointment committee who approved Doug for his teaching position. The Centre for Aboriginal Studies in Music at Adelaide University was responsible for cultivating some of Australia’s most well known First Nation Artists such as;

Coloured Stone:    • Waiting for the Tide  
Us Mob:    • Us Mob – Sunshine…  
No Fixed Address:    • No Fixed Address …  
Kuckles:    • Bran Nue Dae (Ori…  
Electric Fields:    • Electric Fields

Keep a close eye out at the 01:38 mark for a very rare image of Lance (Uncle Karno) Walker as a young lad with a full head of hair, playing bass guitar on one of Australia’s National Icons.