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The School

Figtree High School is a vibrant, fully comprehensive school in Wollongong. The student population reflects a culturally diverse school community, including 194 students from a non–English speaking background and 51 Aboriginal students. The school is held in high regard by both the local and wider community for offering a broad ranging curriculum and achieving high quality educational outcomes for students from Year 7 to Year 12. The school's systems and practices are based on the Positive Behaviour for Learning framework. Our diverse student population includes an on–site physical disabilities class, an autism class and an off–site behaviour unit, the Flametree Campus.

The Project

Developed by Gunai Poet, Kirli Saunders, Poetry in First Languages (PIFL), delivered by Red Room Poetry, celebrates, shares and preserves knowledge of First Nations languages and culture through poetry, music and art. PIFL seeks to support students to create poetry in First Languages by connecting them to First Nations Poets, Elders and Language Custodians on country through Red Room workshops. The underpinning focus is to strengthen the connection of First Nations students to country, language and community in order to empower them to feel pride in their cultural identities resulting in enhanced wellbeing.

Returning to Dharawal Country this year, PIFL will take students on Country with Elders and Custodians, educate them in conservation practices and support students in learning about Dharawal culture and land. Students will create poems in Dharawal language to celebrate local flora and fauna, which will be published and performed meaningfully in the broader community.

In May, students from Figtree High School, Figtree Public School, Fairy Meadow Demonstration School, Port Kembla Public School, Warilla North Public School and Dapto High School will be guided through the 2019 PIFL Dharawal resource with poets Nicole Smede and Ethan Bell along with Custodians Auntry Jodi Edwards and Aunty Trish Levett to compose poetry in Dharawal language, share stories, create artwork and learn about Dharawal culture, land and language. 

The Poet

Nicole Smede

Born on Dharawal country, Nicole’s descendants are Worimi, English, Irish and German.

Nicole is a classically trained vocalist, musician and graduate of the Conservatorium of Music, Sydney with experience ranging from classical, theatre, rock and contemporary music through to film and other media.   

Her voice has been heard on national youth broadcaster Triple J as well as globally on APRA Award-winning film scores. 

Drawing from varied experience in Education, having worked with the NSW Arts Unit, The Song Company and Bundanon Trust, Nicole is excited to be working with Elders and Language Custodians to support the reconnection and continued growth of First Languages.