Caring for the Dispossessed

Bob and Laurel performing on the Bohemia Bar stage at the National Folk Festival in Canberra. Photo by Karina Red.

Our latest song is a fairly accurate description of contemporary life in Australia and its moral dilemmas. Bob was inspired to write this after finding an old black and white photo of his grandfather (a stonemason in Bob’s Scottish hometown). The Highland Clearances are mentioned here in the context of the plight of First Australians, homeless people and refugees.

We entered this in the 2024 Alistair Hulett Songs for Social Justice Award, the last time this award will be offered. Bob’s song, When Whitlam Took his Turn at the Wheel, was awarded the prize in 2022.

This year’s awardee is Paddy McHugh for an as-yet unreleased song about Lismore and its disastrous floods (A Hatchet in the Roof). Award coordinator Bob Fagan told the audience at a special National Folk Festival concert on March 30 that 200 songs for social justice had been written and offered to the judges in the 14 years the award has been held. After the concert (when eight of the awardees performed their songs), some audience members commented that some or all of these songs ought to be on a CD (or a download). We second that!

The 2024 concert in the Budawang included songs by Fred Smith, Penelope Swales, Snez, Miguele Heatmole, Tony Eardley, Tripple Effect, Karen Law and The Goodwills. There was also a rousing all-in version of Alistair’s famous song, “The Swaggies”, led by Murray Law and Fred Smith’s band.

To listen to and/or download, follow this link

Songs for Social Justice at the Nash

Bob with his framed award from the National Folk Festival 2022

At our age, you take the chances when they come and that is why we are heading, by invitation, to the National Folk Festival at Easter.

As one of the Alistair Hulett Songs for Social Justice awardees, we have been invited to perform Bob’s song When Whitlam Took His Turn At The Wheel at this year’s festival. The song took out the award in 2022, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the Whitlam government’s election.

A special concert is being presented at the National Folk festival as a tribute to the late Alistair Hulett, whose family set up the award. Sadly, it is now coming to an end, with the announcement of the 2024 awardee on Easter Monday.

The Singing for Social Justice Concert will be staged at the Budawang on Saturday March 30 from 10am to 11.20am. Concert organiser John Sutton has eight awardees lined up to perform their winning songs.

Previous winners of the Alistair Hulett songwriting award include Snez, Paddy McHugh, Karen Law, Penelope Swales and Fred Smith.

Alistair Hulett, who died in 2010 aged 58, was a Scottish-born singer-songwriter. He moved with his family to New Zealand and then subsequently to Australia, where he became known as the front man for the folk punk band Roaring Jack.

His best-known songs include He Fades Away (about an asbestos miner), Song of a Drinking Man’s Wife, and a powerful ballad known as The Swaggies. His songs have won awards and been recorded by  well-known folk performers including Roy Bailey, Nancy Kerr and James Fagan, Andy Irvine and June Tabor.

We are quite likely to pop up at open mikes or sessions, so if you are at the National in Canberra this year, come and say g’day.


The Goodwills perform at Maleny Music Festival November 11, 2023

The Goodwills Trio (Bob and Laurel Wilson and Helen Rowe) are performing on Saturday November 11 at 10.15am at the Maleny Music Festival. We will be at the Obi Obi venue following Brisbane Irish band, The Jar. We will have to keep to time for this set as one minute of silence is scheduled site-wide for 11am to mark Remembrance Day. This Facebook link should take you to the festival programme to help plan your time there.

This is one of the original songs we will be performing – a reflection on the hard times of the Depression when some Australian families lived in shanties on the edge of towns. See you soon.

Should we say Yes

Australian wattle – a native tree favoured by the Koori people of New South Wales

I decided to write a song about the referendum and had the idea of asking the question: what if we’d had citizens’ referenda about really controversial issues like Iraq and Vietnam? Did we get asked? Eventually the song gets round to talking about Yes23, which ought to be a fait accompli but probably not. The link will take you to Should we say Yes, which is published on our Bandcamp page. You can listen to it a few times before it will ask you for money!

Bob Wilson


The Goodwills at Maleny Music Festival

The Goodwills Newsletter

August 2023

The Goodwills Trio at Nambour’s Black Box Theatre

We’re delighted to announce that the Goodwills Trio will be performing at this year’s Maleny Music Festival, which is on from Friday November 10 to Sunday Nov 12, 2023. Fiddler and singer Helen Rowe joins veteran duo Bob and Laurel Wilson to present what is becoming known as ‘harmonic folk’. – mainly originals with our special 3 voice blend.

This is the 10th anniversary of the Maleny festival, which was re-invented by Noel Gardner and friends. As we all know, the original Maleny Folk Festival, which started in 1987, morphed into the Woodford Festival, which has become one of the biggest music festivals in Australia. There was always a hankering to return to the small-scale, good vibes feel of a smaller festival. Apart from the Covid-19 interruptions, it has all gone well.

The programme looks good and we will be camping there for the duration. As to when we are performing, you’ll need to check the programme later in the year.

The festival programme is being progressively released on the Facebook page – sign up here and stay in the picture.

Our public appearances this year have included Folk Redlands, Sunday Folk at Nambour (supporting Fred Smith) and a spot at The Bug in July.

Check out our music on this website or at




The Goodwills and The Jar at The BUg July 25

The Goodwills Trio opening show for Fred Smith June 18, Nambour. Photo by Rob Mackay.

We’d no sooner finished our opening set for Fred Smith at Nambour on June 18 when along came an email inviting us to perform at The BUg in July. The Goodwills Trio is the original Goodwills (Bob and Laurel Wilson, original songs, guitar and vocals) plus Helen Rowe on fiddle and vocals.

The New Farm Bowls Club is one of our favourite venues for folk-flavoured music. There’s a good stage, a great sound man, you can order meals and if you want to natter to your mates you can go into the other bar. Perfect arrangement.

The BUg (Brisbane Unplugged Gigs) has been operating under that banner at this venue every Tuesday for many years. All styles of music have had their turn up on that stage, from the full-on Irish song and dance band, Murphy’s Pigs, to solo singer-songwriters.

We (The Goodwills Trio) will perform a set of Bob’s original songs and perhaps a surprise cover (or two). Fiddler and singer Helen Rowe complements and sometimes re-invents our arrangements worked out as a duo over many years. Laurel usually takes lead and if not, then it will be Bob’s ‘wonderful reedy tenor,’ as a reviewer once put it. Bob’s songs such as ‘When Whitlam took his turn at the Wheel’ and the two songs about New Zealand are almost certain to get an airing. Since Giardinetto’s is still down in the Valley, it seems the right place to sing ‘Big Country Town’. And, as Bob rashly promised (on social media), he will be doing a solo spot with his quirky song about a red shirt and a girl in a black dress (‘Dead Man’s Shirt’).

If you are interested, this song was covered by country singer Kalesti Butler on her album Airborne.

The Jar, a high-energy four-piece led by John Logan, will be quite a contrast to our folksy harmonies. As described in the Folk Rag, The Jar play traditional and contemporary Irish, Scottish and Australian music with the occasional pop classic thrown in.

Doors open at 7.00 pm. The music starts with three blackboard acts, followed by The Goodwills (8:15pm), and then The Jar. Admission is $10. New Farm Bowls Club, Brunswick Street opposite New Farm Park.

Fred Smith + The Goodwills, Nambour June 18

Dear Friends of The Goodwills,

If you are within cooee of Nambour on Sunday June 18 what better way to spend an afternoon that a concert with celebrated songwriter Fred Smith and a reunion with The Goodwills.

Fred will be launching his new CD ‘Look,” a departure from his material about Afghanistan. Fred says it is about “the ordinary stuff of our lives and the world we live in: the speed of modern life, love, isolation, and the internet in a world that seems to be lurching forward by a rolling series of crisis.”

The Goodwills Trio are the support act for this concert at Nambour’s Black Box Theatre. Bob and Laurel and fiddle player Helen Rowe will present some of Bob’s songs arranged for three-part harmony. Maleny people will remember our long-running series of house concerts at Maleny. Fred performed there three times before his popularity necessitated a move to the RSL!

Sunday Folk organiser Karen Law tells us bookings are being made even at this early stage. A booking link is included below.

Sunday Folk is at the Black Box Theatre, 80 Howard Street, Nambour. Tickets are $25/$23 and children under 18 – $18.
Book here:


Date claimer: The Goodwills supporting Fred Smith, Nambour June 18

East Street Singers (spot The Goodwills) photo by Joel Richters

Never too early for a date claimer  (so you can plan your busy lives). We’ve been asked to open for Fred Smith when he revisits Nambour’s Sunday Folk on June 18. Fred has performed at house concerts held when we lived in Maleny and we keep bumping into him (Tasmania, WA, Woodford). See details of this gig at the end of this report on our recent gigs.

March was a busy month for a pair of septuagenarians. On March 19 we performed at Folk Redlands with our third member Helen Rowe. The following weekend (March 26) Laurel and I were part of the afternoon’s entertainment for a refugee fundraiser in Warwick. The occasion was National Harmony Week and the cause to raise money to help settle a refugee family in Warwick.

Eighty people attended and we raised $1353 on the day for the Southern Downs Welcome Circle, which is sponsoring a refugee family who move to Warwick in May.

We opened the show with a half-hour set followed by East Street Singers who sang contemporary music, a break from the Gilbert & Sullivan pieces we are learning at the moment. Laurel and I are both in the choir so much changing of hats went on through the afternoon. Penny Davies and Roger Ilott closed the concert with some lovely soft, melodic songs which they encouraged people to sing along with.

Penny was also MC on the day (talk about wearing too many hats) and Roger thankfully took over managing our Yamaha PA which we needed in St Mark’s Anglican Hall.

Then on Friday March 31 we were part of the entertainment at a U3A Warwick end of term social. The venue was a contemporary history museum, The Kompound, noted for its dedication to the humble Kombi wagon.

Other entertainment on the night included a Scottish Country Dancing demonstration, the U3A line dancers and a Djembe drumming group.

Our next formal gig is supporting Fred Smith for a concert at Nambour’s Folk on Sunday on June 18, 2023. The venue is Nambour’s old ambulance station (now the Black Box Theatre). If you’ve not heard Fred Smith before, it would be worth the effort to (a) look him up and (b) come along.