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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 and delivered by Red Room Poetry, Poetry in First Languages (PIFL) celebrates, shares and preserves knowledge of First Nations languages and culture through poetry, music and art.

On May 7 and 8 in partnership with Mettigong Theatre and Wollongong Art Gallery, First Nations students from Years 3-11 at Figtree Primary School, Fairy Meadow Demonstration School, Warilla North Public School, Port Kembla Public School, Dapto High school, Figtree High School and Oak Flats High School came together for the Poetry in First Languages, Dharawal programs.

With the guidance of Dharawal based poet and musician, Nicole Smede, and Dharawal based Ngunawal Poet, Ethan Bell,  Gundungurra Custodian Aunty Trish and Gumea Dharawal language custodian, Jacob Morris, the students connected to country through language, story and art to create poetry in Dharawal language. These poems were interpreted into artworks and will be performed in the local area at community events. 

Read the student poems here.

PIFL Dharawal will also return in October in partnership with the Royal Botanic Gardens, NASCA, and the Art Gallery of NSW.

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.