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The School

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.

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.

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.

Read the student poems

Lyndsay's reflection and photos by Todd Hardingham

 

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.

The Poet

Kirli Saunders

Kirli Saunders is a proud Gunai Woman and an award-winning international Children’s Author and Poet as well as a Teacher, and emerging Artist. She created and led Red Room Poetry's Poetry in First Languages program from its conception until July 2020. Her debut picture book The Incredible Freedom Machines was shortlisted for the Prime Minister's Literary Awards and CBCA notables. Her poetry collection, Kindred was shortlisted for the ABIA 2020 Book Awards and FAB Booktopia Awards. She is the inaugural winner of the Daisy Utemorrah Award and University of Canberra ATSI Poetry prize (2019). She is an esteemed judge for the Val Vallis Poetry Prize. Kirli is the 2020 NSW Aboriginal Woman of the Year.

 

Reflections

Taking a dream from conception to delivery – Poetry in First Languages – Kirli Saunders