Isaiah Firebrace's journey back into history ahead of tonight's Return to Country festival commemorating the repatriation of Mungo Man

Isaiah Firebrace will perform at the Return to Country festival at Nowingi Place.

Isaiah Firebrace will perform at the Return to Country festival at Nowingi Place.

ISAIAH Firebrace had no doubts when he was asked to perform at one of the most solemn music festivals ever held on these shores.

The 17-year-old Yorta Yorta man from Echuca, X-Factor winner and Eurovision Song Contest star will make his Mildura performing debut at the historic Return to Country festival Saturday night.

Mungo Man returned to country

Knowledge of country runs through culture

Isaiah, one of the festival's headline acts alongside Archie Roach, expects the event to be a "happy coming together of everyone to stop for a moment and appreciate the ancient past".

"I feel like its going to be very warm and very fun and I can't wait to meet everyone there," he said.

"I love doing these type of things because the Aboriginal people have really supported me in my journey so far, so it's really good to do something as significant as this."

His own journey, of course, has involved a phenomenal rise to stardom.

Isaiah won X-Factor in its eighth season last year, released his self-titled debut album only 11 months ago and finished ninth in the Eurovision grand final in Kiev this May.

The teenager's tender years contrast those of Mungo Man, whose return home is being commemorated at the festival.

The return of the oldest known human remains, buried about 40,000 years ago by Aboriginal people near the shores of Lake Mungo north-east of Mildura, will take place at a sacred ceremony on Friday.

"It's a very significant thing, the remains coming back to Mildura," Isaiah said.

"I'm always really connected to my heritage and who I am so I just knew straight away this was something I wanted to do."

Aboriginal elders gave their approval to the festival going ahead on the condition that it was a free event, with no alcohol.

While Isaiah's recording commitments prevented him travelling to Mungo for the formal repatriation on Friday, he will play a central role in the festival's aim to bring together indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.

"This is recognition that we have weathered so many trials as Aboriginal people," he said.

"There is so much to look forward to so we need to just understand and appreciate our resilience over the thousands of years and its also a time to come together and dream about a positive future together.

"I read this quote ages ago that you can't play a piano without the black keys or the white keys, you know.

"You have to have both to make a beautiful song.

"So I think events like this, it's just awesome that we get to come together and celebrate, not only the Aboriginal people but non indigenous people that support what we're all about."

Isaiah said he was excited to be part of a line-up which includes Sunraysia indigenous artists, as well as iconic Aboriginal musician Archie Roach and Shane Howard, once of Goanna.

He remains tight-lipped about which songs he will perform but the up-and-comer says some X-Factor favourites will be on the playlist.

The free Return to Country festival, starring Isaiah Firebrace, Archie Roach, Shane Howard and other artists begins at 7pm, tonight at Nowingi Place.

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