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The School

Wollongong High School of the Performing Arts is a specialist co-educational, public secondary school located in Fairy Meadow, a suburb of Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia, run by the New South Wales Department of Education and Training. It was founded in 1916.

The school enrolls both local area students and students who gain entry through auditions. The school estimates that over a third of the student body has gained entry through auditions.

The Project

On 24 October, Yuin poet Kirli Saunders held workshops with Wollongong High School of the Performing Arts and Waniora Public School. These workshops are the first to use the 'Poetry in First Languages' resource, specially tailored to promote connection to country, culture and language. The day focused on poetry in Dharawal Language, with the support of local Language Custodian, Jodi Edwards. Discover the student's poems here. 

Indigenous students heard dreaming stories from local elders and language holders, created poetry about the local landscape and identity and learnt about Dharawal language with the aims to translate sections of their poems and collaborate to perform their poetry.

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’.