WA – SIDE – Staff and students engaging with Aboriginal histories, culture and stories

The School of Isolated and Distance Education (SIDE) is committed to developing towards becoming a culturally responsive school, moving through the stages of cultural awareness, cultural understanding, cultural competence and cultural responsiveness. Our staff are engaging in a variety of formal and informal professional learning opportunities to support this journey. On school development days this year, we have begun to explore the Aboriginal Cultural Standards Framework with the support of the Aboriginal Education Teaching and Learning Directorate, and have enjoyed the first set of an ongoing cycle of workshops with guest presenters. The sessions this term included: listening to the personal experience of a member of the Stolen Generations, unpacking native title, and a theatrical performance by a Wongi/Yamatji actor and writer from the Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company, of Moorditj Wirlya (Strong Heart), examining ideas of culture, identity and belonging.

SIDE has an ongoing partnership with the Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company, Australia’s biggest Aboriginal-led theatre company. Through the partnership,SIDE students and staff attend performances and engage in a variety of workshops with a focus on sharing Aboriginal stories and experiences. Each year Yirra Yaakin develops a collection of four stories for school audiences based on Noongar knowledge and storytelling through the Kaatijin series of productions. Previous series have included Boodjar Kaatijin: traditional legends of how the land was created, and Kaarla Kaatijin: traditional stories about fire. This year’s stories, Djinda Kaatijin, explore the importance of the stars and how they are culturally important to us all. In addition to live performances as school incursions, Yirra Yaakin film search Kaatijin story in SIDE’s recording studio. These and other recordings are rich teaching and learning resources for our students and are shared online in Moodle or WebEx.

Recently some SIDE staff also attended a moving production by the Ilbijerri Theatre Company, Bindjareb Pinjarra, a blend of improvised comedy and physical theatre presenting Aboriginal perspectives of the Pinjarra massacre in 1834, with reflections to the present day. You can watch excerpts of the production in this YouTube video.

Weaving with the Women from Warakurna

Individual staff have also enrolled in online Noongar language courses, shared information about the Carrolup Artworks, a collection of 122 artworks created by Aboriginal children of the Stolen Generations in the late 1940s at the Carrolup Native Settlement in Western Australia’s Great Southern region, and participated in arange of informal opportunities to enhance cultural knowledge, such as an evening of basket weaving with the Tjanpi Desert Weavers.