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The School

Port Kembla Public School sits in an idyllic coastal environment overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The school motto, "Pride in Performance", depicts the ethos that students be respectful of themselves, others and the environment and strive to achieve their best in all areas of pursuit. The school has an enrolment of 270 students including an Indigenous population of 10%. It was established in 1890 and is now at its fifth site.

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 Port Kembla Public School, Figtree Public School, Fairy Meadow Demonstration School, Warilla North Public School, Dapto High School, and Figtree 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.