Born in the southwest Queensland town of Cunnamulla, Marlene’s traditional people on her Father’s side are Guguyelandji, and Woppaburra on her Mother’s side. The family then moved to Winton where Marlene spent her formative years. Growing up under the cloud of the Aboriginal Protection Act of the 1950s and 60s, Marlene had a ‘grassroots’ upbringing in a very politically aware family.
Marlene's life is the story of her people and she tells it through her art, her lyrics, her on-stage performance as both an actress and singer and more recently through documentary film making. Marlene refined her skills as a blues saxophonist and songwriter at the Berklee College of Music Boston in the mid-90s and has been performing live for as long as she can remember.
A regular broadcaster on Koori Radio with her renowned blues show, ‘Marloo’s Blues’, Marlene won Broadcaster of the Year at the 2009 Deadly Awards and Gadigal Information Broadcaster of the Year 2015. In recent years Marlene has represented Koori Radio at the Byron Bay BluesFest as a roving reporter interviewing major blues artists from around the globe. Also an actor and storyteller, Marlene played the role of Beenie in Nardi Simpson’s play ‘Black Drop Effect’ premiering at the Sydney Festival in January 2020. In 2014 Marlene released her first full-length album, Koori Woman Blues to coincide with the premiere of her biographical documentary film Black Panther Woman that she co-wrote with Rachel Perkins.
Over the past 20 years Marlene has performed with her band at festivals, events and clubs throughout Australia. Considered one of Australia’s foremost Indigenous female blues writer and performer, Marlene knows the blues from an Aboriginal woman’s perspective. Her story is one of vulnerability, strength and survival. A career highlight was performing on saxophone with Charles Neville (Neville Bros) at Snug Harbour New Orleans in 2017.
Marlene presents a biographical journey through her music; a myriad of political, social and personal experiences that content her lyrics and songs. With a mixture of original and traditional blues numbers, the centrepiece and original song is the stirring epic blues anthem, ‘Koori Woman’. Marlene dedicates this song to Aboriginal women everywhere as they were, in her words, ‘the backbone of the struggle’.
“The life Marlene has lived is closer to the life that produced those original blues singers like Muddy Waters, than any contemporary American blues artist.” (Richard Field, Producer)
Marlene is currently a Board Member of Koori Radio
and is a past Board Member of the Australia Council for the Arts.