• Participants from The Song Room's Deadly Arts program performs a cultural dance for their community (Image: The Song Room)
Primary schools in Western Sydney are learning about Indigenous song, dance, art and even cooking to build community engagement
By
Sophie Verass

4 Aug 2016 - 4:43 PM  UPDATED 5 Aug 2016 - 10:16 AM

Today, community liaison officer and artists, T'Janara Talbot and Michael West are at a Western Sydney Primary school teaching an art class of young children about diversity and inclusion. They teach based on their own cultural customs and techniques  - T'Janara, Wiradjuri and Bundjulang and Michael, Kamilaroi - but embrace the culture of the local community and encourage students to express their own identity through Aboriginal art. 

Deadly Arts is one of the many programs of The Song Room, a national not-for-profit organisation that 'brightens the future of Australia's disadvantaged children with tailored, high-quality music and arts programs, delivered to different schools across the country'. 

"[The] Song Room has inspired me to believe in myself. It has also helped me to not be embarrassed about what other people think and it's helped me gain self-confidence," says a student in the program. 

"[The] Song Room has inspired me to believe in myself. I has also helped me to not be embarrassed about what other people think and it's helped me gain self-confidence."

2016 marks 8 years of their successful Indigenous after-school program, which engages Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students living in Western Sydney with Indigenous culture and heritage. Activities such as dance, art, bush tucker gardening, storytelling, song and poetry have lead to opportunities such as performances and exhibitions for the wider community, where Indigenous students can promote their heritage and non-Indigenous students can embrace Australia's rich history.   

This kind of program is fundamental to ensuring that Indigenous Australia's next generation grow up with a sense of pride and understanding of Aboriginality. 

“I learned that there are all different types of art, there is like sculpture and paintings and slideshows and woven baskets and that you can make anything only if you try," says another young program participant.  

Steve Harris from The Song Room told NITV that the most popular component of Deadly Arts is traditional storytelling. 

"The students take themes and ideas from traditional stories and find a great level of inspiration in the opportunity to interpret and retell them in their own way through music, dance and visual art" 

Students performed the tellings of Aboriginal Elder community leader, Uncle Wes Marne, whose themes discussed the heavy history ... This was performed through song and dance at the Blacktown Civic Centre, Sydney.

He says that this was demonstrated last year during an end of year collaborative performance with five local schools. Students performed the tellings of Aboriginal Elder community leader, Uncle Wes Marne, whose themes discussed the heavy history including the arrival of white settlers, the stolen generations, the loss of cultural identity and displacement, and a deep longing for life on the land. This was performed through song and dance at the Blacktown Civic Centre, Sydney.

The Principal of Mount Druitt's Shavley Public School, one of the five participating schools, said that she had 'never seen such an event that achieved so much; uniting schools, students, staff and communities in learning about and celebrating Aboriginal history and culture in an authentic and respectful way.'  

Another story Harris reflects on fondly is just last semester when a traditional and contemporary dance program had a residency in one of The Song Room's partner schools.  

"The students worked on a dance for a whole semester, leading up to a performance as part of NAIDOC week," Harris told NITV. "One student was very disengaged with the program in the beginning, and refused to take part. 

"Over the semester, The Song Room Teaching Artist, and dancers encouraged the boy to further participate, slowly including him in the choreography. By the time the NAIDOC performance came around, the boy was had become an integral part of the routine. At the conclusion of the program he presented the dancers and Teaching Artist with a thank you card that he had made." 

NITV is celebrating National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children's Day 4 August


 

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