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 will be connected to First Nations Poets, Elders and Language Custodians on Country, strengthening the connection students to Country, Language and Community 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. Kirli is the Manager of Poetic Learning and Aboriginal Cultural Liaison at Red Room Poetry. She was awarded ‘Worker of the Year 2017’ at the NAIDOC awards in the Illawarra/ Shoalhaven region and has been nominated for a National NAIDOC award in 2018. Kirli founded the Poetry in First Languages project. Her first children’s picture book The Incredible Freedom Machines, illustrated by Matt Ottley was selected for Bologna Book Fair and is published internationally. Her second picture book Our Dreaming will be released by Scholastic in July 2019, Happy Ever After will follow in February 2020. Kirli’s First Poetry Collection, Kindred is to be released by Magabala in 2019, it was Highly Commended in the 2018 Black&Write! prize. Kirli’s poem ‘A Dance of Hands’ was Runner-up in the Nakata Brophy Prize. Kirli’s poetry has been published by Cordite and Overland and has embedded in infrastructure at Darling Harbour and the Royal Botanical Gardens, Melbourne. In 2018, Kirli will be Writer in Residence at Bundanon Trust, Q Station and The Literature Centre, Fremantle for ‘The Sound of Picture Books’.