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The School

Today St Paul’s is a one-stream school with an enrolment of approximately 170 students from Moss Vale and the southern outlying areas. The school is a Catholic Parish Systemic school in the Diocese of Wollongong, administered by the Wollongong Catholic Education Office under the direction of the Bishop of Wollongong, Bishop Peter Ingham. 

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 Pauls Primary School, Moss Vale High School, Aurora Southern Highlands Steiner School, Bowral High School, Bowral Public School, Berrima Public School and Hill Top Public School 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.

In the southern regions of Gundungurra country, crossing the Nattai, Wollondilly and Paddy’s Rivers, there is only one remaining native vegetation corridor, between Bullio and Bungonia. Little is currently known about the local population of glossies in this area. Do they successfully breed in the corridor each year? Are they vulnerable to pests or other predators? Can the current landscape sustain their unique feeding behaviour?
With the help of citizen scientists, the Glossies in the Mist project aims to answer some of these questions, and through the mapping of key habitat resources such as important feed and hollow bearing trees, the project hopes to secure foraging and breeding habitat for the glossy black-cockatoo into the future.

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’.