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The School

St Michael’s Catholic Primary School, Mittagong was founded in 1891 by the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart. The school was originally called St Joseph’s School; the name was changed in the mid-1970s to reflect the link with the local parish.
During its long history the school has catered for both primary and secondary education and, at one stage, included boarders. The Sisters of St Joseph withdrew from the school at the conclusion of the 2004 School Year.  
The staff of St Michael’s, with the Parish Priest, Father Sean Cullen and under the direction of the Catholic Education Office Wollongong, today seeks to continue to meet the educational and spiritual needs of students from the Parish of Mittagong and the surrounding villages.

The Project

In its second year, Poetry in First Languages - Gundungurra will focus on connecting to Country through a conservation project in partnership with Wingecarribee Shire Council and the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, Glossies in the Mist. This iteration of Poetry in First Languages aims to support students to create poetry about the Glossy Black Cockatoo and other local species, drawing on Gundungurra Language. Students will bring about awareness of this endangered species and encourage change in the local environment and community. This project will take students on Country with Elders and Custodians, educate them in conservation practices and support students in learning about Gundungurra culture and land. Students will create poems in Gundungurra language to celebrate local flora and fauna, which will be published and performed meaningfully in the broader community.

In March, following the cultural experience Gunai poet Kirli Saunders will guide students from St Michael's Mittagong through the new resource, specific to Gundungurra Country with Aunty Trish Levett. Students will be connected to First Nations Poets, Elders and Language Custodians on Country, strengthening the connection of First Nations students to Country, language and community to empower students to feel pride in their cultural identities.

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, Oranges and Sardines Foundation, Copyright Agency, and generous individuals.

On Gundungurra country, PIFL is also supported by Wingecarribee Shire Council, NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, and Elders and Custodians, Aunty Sharyn Hall, Aunty Trish Levett and Jacob Morris. 

The Poet

Kirli Saunders

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’.