NINE teenagers have emerged from the year-long Gomeroi Culture Academy with greater cultural awareness, knowledge and skills, and a desire to pass that on.
The students are the academy’s first graduates, and they celebrated with a function with family, friends and supporters at Tamworth Regional Gallery this afternoon.
Academy director Marc Sutherland said “their passion and dedication to growth, and their support of the people around them, has been amazing”.
The culturally focused academy is a partnership between Gomeroi Dance Company, Yinarr Maramali and Joblink Plus.
Mr Sutherland said he’d started with a group of “excited young people, eager to learn”.
“They’d already been on a learning journey of some description, in a number of different ways, whether it be through leadership roles in schools, or in social and community activism.”
And after four terms of weekly mentoring, learning, excursions and projects, “they still inspire me every day”.
The students devised their own cultural learning plans, identifying three or four areas in which they wanted to learn more.
For example, Mr Sutherland said, one boy’s goal had been to learn to play the didgeridoo, so he’d been taken out into the bush, told the stories of how to identify and cut the right wood, how to make the instrument and how to play it.
Other students’ goals including learning family history, language, dance, song or weaving.
Graduate J-Lee Nash, 15, said she had “so much knowledge that I did not have before”.
The McCarthy Catholic College student, who identifies more as Ngurrabul, said she’d hoped to make friends and gain valuable experiences.
“It has definitely taught me leadership and it has shown me that culture is necessary … it is our past, it’s what everyone was doing, it’s how we lived, it’s how we shaped the land around us, it’s how we cared for the land and how we should be caring for the land now.”
Some outcomes of their learning has included art and cultural artefacts, now being exhibited at the gallery.
Another is 17 posters featuring native animals, their name in Gomeroi language, the pronunciation and the Gomeroi story of that animal.
The hope is to roll them out in schools as educational resources.
Next year, Mr Sutherland said, the graduates would be “highly valued” as people who could support the academy and even return as mentors.
“Once we obtain and understand information, we have a responsibility to pass it on respectfully … like it’s been done for a long time,” Mr Sutherland said.
Mark Kirk and Kerry Spearim’s son Dyontay Spearim was another graduate.
They said they’d seen him become much more culturally aware and more connected to his family.
“He has grown: he’s funding other avenues in life, more positive stuff.”
- Applications are open for the 2019 intake – contact Gomeroi Dance Company at email@example.com or talk to your school’s Aboriginal education officer.