Dozens of music-loving Melbourne teenagers are spending part of their summer holidays learning to rock and roll at a music mentorship program, reports Kate Stanton

Amy, a 14-year-old guitarist, pianist and singer, is beaming because she just met her idol, Melbourne-based indie sensation Courtney Barnett.

“I just think that she’s really cool because she gives the impression that she doesn’t really care what other people think,” Amy says. 

Barnett has been mentoring Amy and fellow aspiring musicians this week at a six-day summer camp dedicated to nurturing and empowering young women through rock n’ roll.

Modelled after similar camps all over the world, Girls Rock! Melbourne uses music education and performance to teach female, trans and gender nonconforming teenagers about self-esteem, confidence and respect.

Ruby Watson and other camp organisers decided to bring Girls Rock! to Melbourne after watching a documentary about the movement in the US. First held in Portland, Oregon in 2001, there are now more than 60 camps around the world.

“We couldn’t even imagine what our lives would be like now if we had something like this when we were between the ages of 12 and 17,” Ms Watson says. “We wanted to be able to give that to other people.”

The camp began January 9 at Wisk Studios in Brunswick, where campers have spent the week developing their music skills, forming bands and writing songs.

Girls Rock! culminates in a showcase Saturday at Trades Hall in Carlton, where the young musicians will perform with their bands in front of a live audience.

But Ms Watson says the program is about more than music education. Girls Rock! uses music to teach women about self-esteem, positivity and acceptance. Campers attend workshops in feminism, media representations of women and self-defence.

There is also a heavy DIY focus, with campers learning to design their own logos, screenprint band t-shirts and make their own zines. 

“We’re not just talking about rock music here,” says Ms Watson. “We’re really using music as the medium to encourage and spur social change and social discussion.”


  Girls Rock! Melbourne showcase runs Saturday, January 14 at Bella Union in Carlton, Melbourne.