THE FACES of the Kamilaroi community have lit up the screens in Geneva as a part of a fight to return sacred culture to country.
Collarenebri Central School and Walgett Community College students, staff, and community members have taken centre stage at the international Decolonizing Provenance Research conference in Geneva.
Students featured in the heartfelt documentary 'Gaaguuwiya dhawunga - Bring back home' which tells the story of the Carved trees of Collarenebri which were destroyed, stolen, and removed from the area in 1949.
Local Aboriginal Education Consultative Group President and the Community College's Senior Leader, Ros McGregor, has worked with students over the past 15 years to improve their cultural knowledge and advocate for a return of the sacred trees, which are held in museums and private collections around the world.
"The return of the trees is vital to the healing and teaching of local Kamilaroi culture," Mr McGregor said.
"The Carved trees have a spirit that is past, present and future."
Although there are still some trees on country, Mr McGregor said the return of the sacred artefacts would provide an opportunity for the Kamilaroi people to build deeper knowledge systems and continue learning.
"We can never go back to the times and way of life we had when the trees were carved, but the images and patterns on the trees speak to us as Kamilaroi people," he said.
The international conference focused on sharing stories and experiences of returning cultural artefacts, and negotiating the future of colonial collections and displays.
The local community gathered and joined the meeting via video link last week, to watch the 16 minute documentary on the big screen with the rest of the world.
With a majority of students coming from an Indigenous background, Collarenebri Central School principal Michael Davison said being involved in the documentary was the "perfect opportunity" to ensure Aboriginal culture was alive and embedded into the school curriculum.
"The kids need a western education, but not at the sacrifice of their culture or heritage," he said.
Many of the kids have never even left Collarenebri.
Mr Davison said the international attention was a huge deal and had been used as an opportunity for history and geography lessons about Geneva and the significance of the conference.
But most importantly, Mr Davison said he hoped the documentary would help students embrace their Aboriginal culture and spread the message of the importance of returning the Carved trees to their home.
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