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The School

Nowra East Public School aims to achieve school life happiness through shared values of respect, safe practices, responsible behaviour and quality learning. Students and staff work in a supportive environment with a focus on quality teaching and a priority on achieving high levels of learning in all areas. 

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.

On 16 August, Bundanon Trust Writer in Residence, Kirli Saunders took students from Nowra East Public School through the new resource, specific to Yuin Country. Kirli worked alongside local Gumea Dharawal language custodians Jacob Morris and Adrian Webster. Students were connected to First Nations Poets and Custodians on Country, strengthening the connection 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, Geoff Ainsworth AM & Johanna Featherstone, Copyright Agency, and generous individuals.

On Yuin Country, PIFL is also supported by Bundanon Trust, Participants in the Australia Council’s 2018 Arts Leaders Program and the Graeme Wood Foundation.

Read the poems here

The Poet

Joel Deaves

Joel Deaves is a Gumea Dharrawal man and Dharumba Dhurga descendant from the Yuin people, Joel’s earliest memories are of him and his cousins playing in the Bush where they all fallowed their Nan around learning how to make Gunyah’s (Traditional Shelters) and eating the freshly-picked berries of the native cherry and geebung trees. As Joel went into the beginning of his schooling, he and his brother were interested in Aboriginal Dancing, they asked to join an emerging local dance group; from year 3 to high school, Joel and his brother enjoyed dancing, and learning songs from Aboriginal men belonging to the South Coast Community.

Growing up Joel became more aware of the diversity that exists in the different tribal groups from language to songs and dance. Joel’s great grandmother Lena Chapman née Carpenter (dec) was the last fluent speaker of the Gumea Dharrawal dialect. Joel always had a thirst to learn more knowledge and culture of his direct family and tribe. A few years down the track, Joel heard the language of his tribal group from his Uncle Warren Morris (dec), who was the last speaker of the Gumea Dharrawal dialect, the southern dialect of the Dharrawal Language spoken between the Shoalhaven River and Crooked River near Gerringong.

Joel then begun learning the language from his uncle and, with his cousin Jacob, this set a path in which he hasn’t looked back, from the learning of his language Joel’s passion grew for continuing and returning his culture not just for him but for his family as well. In his spare time Joel is with family, speaking and restoring the Gumea Dharrawal dialect with Jacob and Adrian or walking on Yuin country with his cousins continuing their connection to the land just as their old people did.