After dropping out of high school and taking various jobs, Ian spent a year as a teacher’s aide at a school for autistic children. With encouragement from the principal, he then began his teacher training. Ian’s longstanding interest in all things Aboriginal led to his first teaching position, at a bi-lingual school on the Tiwi Islands, N.T., where he taught for three years, during which time Ian and the Aboriginal teachers wrote and recorded ‘Ngawa Ngarikuruwala – We Sing’ which, along with a song-book was released in 1981. The package sold out in 1 ½ days, with virtually every household on the island owning a copy that year. Ian has been writing and recording songs for children ever since.
After living in Darwin for two years - singing and performing around schools in the Top End, hunting in the mangroves with Tiwi friends and family, subsisting on souvlaki and olives from the local deli, writing and recording ‘Ola Kid Song blanga Ian Ross Williams’, Ian moved to Townsville to further his studies. He completed a Graduate Diploma in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education whilst teaching at Aurukun, Cape York, which is where he met his future wife, an artist and teacher. Ian spent the latter half of the 80’s and most of the 90’s living on the edge of the rainforest near Yarrabah (S-E of Cairns), writing, recording, teaching, performing and raising a family. In the late 90’s Ian and family moved south, to the Sunshine Coast Hinterland. Ian’s three children have all made guest appearances on recordings over the years, along with a great many fine musicians and vocalists, Indigenous and non-indigenous children and professional musicians.
An early influence on Ian’s songwriting and performing was the Australian folk musician Alex Hood, who regularly performed at Primary schools throughout the country, including in his shows some very positive references to indigenous culture. A childhood spent exploring the Sydney bush, and an adult life spent teaching in isolated northern communities has remained another influence on Ian’s music making.
Ian is currently employed by Education Queensland as a primary school music specialist. His songs are used by various Departments of Education in Australian primary schools and have also been covered by numerous artists and organisations, including the ABC. Ian has written theme songs and sound tracks for children’s education videos, run song writing workshops for Aboriginal teachers, and continues to present workshops for Music and Early Childhood teachers on the use of his songs and teaching materials.
In 2013 Ian completed his Level 2 Orff-Schulwerk training. This has proved a fertile inspiration and provided an added dimension to both his song writing for children as well as his teaching. Ian regularly ‘performs’ for his young students and occasionally performs for other audiences if asked very nicely.