Warrawong High School
Poetry in First Languages, 2018
Warrawong High School is a comprehensive, multicultural high school with a well deserved reputation for racial and social harmony. Situated in southern Wollongong, they have 506 students with 59% from a non English speaking background.
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.
Over two days (14-15 May) Kirli Saunders and Koori poet Lyndsay Urquhart took students of First Nations and Refugee Backgrounds from Years 7-11 at Warrawong High School through the new resource, specific to Dharawal Country. Students in community with First Nations Poets, Elders and Language Custodians on Country, strengthened their connection to Country, Language and Community, with a vision to empower students to feel pride in their cultural identities. Students were encouraged to create poetry in Dharawal as well as in their own First Languages. The second day focused on art with Gundungurra Elder Aunty Trish Levett and dance with Lyndsay Urquhart.
Poetry in First Languages is supported by the Commonwealth through the Australian National Commission for UNESCO of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. It is proudly supported by Graeme Wood Foundation, Geoff Ainsworth AM & Johanna Featherstone, Copyright Agency and generous individuals.
On Dharawal Country, PIFL is also supported by participants in Graeme Wood Foundation, Illawarra Multicultural Services, Merrigong Theatre Company, Wollongong Art Gallery, First Languages Australia, Miromaa and AIME.
Kirli Saunders is a proud Gunai woman, with ties to the Yuin, Gundungurra, Gadigal and Biripi people. She currently resides on Dharawal Country. Kirli is an international children’s author, poet and emerging playwright. She manages Poetry in First Languages and Poetic Learning at Red Room Poetry. Her picture books include CBCA nominated and internationally published, The Incredible Freedom Machines (Scholastic) and forthcoming, Our Dreaming and Happy Every After (Scholastic) and Afloat (Hardie Grant). Her poetry Collection, Kindred was Highly Commended in Black&Write 2018. She was Runner-up in the Nakata Brophy Prize 2018. Her poetry has been published by a number of journals (Cordite, Overland, Planthunter) and commissioned for public art. She is co-writing her first play, Dead Horse Gap.
In 2019, you can find Kirli at NT Writers Festival, Queensland Poetry Festival, Sydney Writers Festival, Enough Said and Word in Hand. She returns as writer in residence at The Literature Centre, Fremantle this year where she will perform The Incredible Freedom Machines with Matt Ottley and the Western Australian Symphony Orchestra in rural WA, at Coco’s Island and Christmas Island.