This month and next month, three of Australian hip hop’s biggest stars, up and comers Pez and 360 and the elder stateswoman of Australian hip hop, Maya Jupiter, will join forces to bring us the Change It For The Better national tour. This tour is presented by The Line, an Australian Government anti-violence, pro-respect campaign. According to the statistics, one in three Australian women will become a victim of domestic violence each year. It is this startling statistic and others like it that has lead to the launch of The Line and Maya, Pez, and 360 getting involved as musical ambassadors.
“First of all, I’m a true believer in the power that music has to effect positive change,” Maya says of her involvement with the The Line. “So I thought that, as an artist, that’s something I can actually contribute to and be involved with, just in the way of delivering a message through music.”
As Maya reveals, though, her connection to the campaign is more than abstract. “It wasn’t until I started reading all of the research [available on www.theline.gov.au] that I realised how close to home it was; how I actually have had personal experience with this idea of establishing respectful relationships,” she says. “The Line is really about behaviour at a young age, and defining and deciding for yourself what’s appropriate and what’s not within your relationships. I really wanted to get involved to talk to young women in that age range of fifteen to eighteen: it’s the time where you feel, and I personally remember this, you feel that you’re not a kid anymore, but you’re not an adult yet, so you’re in this weird place where you’re acting grown up and want to have adult relationships, but you don’t really have the tools or the know how to go about it.”
Her own personal experiences are not sordid tales of physical abuse, but the more mundane and problematic precisely because they are mundane experiences of a young woman rushing headlong into relationships. “I had a friendship with a girl whose boyfriend started telling her what to wear and who to be friends with at the age of fifteen,” she says. “Personally, I got into a relationship with an older guy who manipulated me and made me do things I wasn’t really comfortable doing. And I think, perhaps if there was a discussion about it, some kind of dialogue out in the open, things would have been different.”
The experience wasn’t traumatic, and Maya doesn’t dwell on it, but it has strengthened her resolve to act as an ambassador. “Fast forward to today, I’m really keen to talk to young women and girls today, to reach out to them and say, ‘Think about it: think about your role in your relationship. Are you safe? Are you happy?’,” she says. “It’s about promoting healthy relationships so that when they become adults they will hopefully have respectful, happy relationships as adults.”
Maya is particularly keen to get involved because she understands the power of a well-placed role model. “When I was a young woman growing up, I looked towards women in positions of power, and empowered women especially artists like Salt ‘N’ Pepa, or Janet Jackson, or even Lauryn Hill,” she says. “These were women who were intelligent, expressed themselves clearly, knew who they were, and were in a position of power, in control. I can only speak about my own personal role as an ambassador for this campaign, but I hope that young women see me as an empowered woman who has learnt a little bit along the way. I hope that they can share in what I have learnt, which is to look out for yourself, to love yourself, to stand up for yourself, and to stand up for what’s right.”