Sharing culture through dance and song

Goodjarga 'Growing in Culture' performance at St Ursula's College Kingsgrove.

Sharing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stories at St Ursula’s College Kingsgrove.

Sydney Catholic Schools’ Goodjarga ‘Growing in Culture’ ensemble shared their pride in their culture when they performed for Primary and Secondary students from 28 November to 2 December.

The ensemble’s eight members – Isaac Bamblett, Year 10, De La Salle College, Ashfield, Olivia Denis, Year 10, St Ursula’s College, Kingsgrove, Caitlyn Joseph, Year 9, Bethlehem College, Ashfield, Elizabeth Lorente, Year 9, St  Ursula’s College, Kingsgrove, Jye Rich, Year 8, De La Salle College, Ashfield, Latisha Te Rangi, Year 10, Brigidine College, Randwick, Sharnae Thiele, Year 8, Marist Sisters’ College, Woolwich and Aaliyah Wilson, Year 8, Domremy College, Five Dock – were selected to be part of the ensemble from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from across the Archdiocese.

In the lead-up to the tour of 10 Sydney Catholic schools, the members of the ensemble worked with respected Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tutors to explore their connection to their culture and learn dances and songs.

The result was an hour-long performance of storytelling, dance and song called Nyalu – choreographed and written by the Goodjarga students with their tutors.

Goodjarga artistic advisor, Sharon Zeeman said nyalu is a Dharug word meaning ‘I am,’ which was chosen to reflect how important language is to culture and identity.

Performing for Year 8 students at St Ursula’s Catholic College Kingsgrove, ‘Growing in Culture’ began with didgeridoo playing by Isaac Bamblett, followed by a series of dances.

In the first dance, each of the eight students stepped forward and described what their culture means to them.

“My culture is a rhythm and song through life which can help me overcome many things.”

– Olivia Denis, Year 10, St Ursula’s College Kingsgrove

Olivia Denis said her culture means her dancing, knowledge and her family history.

“Culture is a rhythm and song through life which can help me overcome many things,” Olivia said.

Isaac Bamblett said, “My culture is my life.”

Other ensemble members said their culture means strength, pride, honour, identity and values.

The Goodjarga 'Growing in Culture' ensemble.

The Goodjarga ‘Growing in Culture’ ensemble.

After performing dances from the Torres Strait, the ensemble performed a contemporary piece inspired by a passionate speech about racism in Australia from Wiradjuri man and journalist Stan Grant.

As Stan Grant’s words were broadcast around the hall, ‘that it’s never too late to change’, the Goodjarga students danced to a song co-written by Aboriginal student, Jake Laing, when he was a student at Marcellin College Randwick.

‘The Goodjarga performance was a fantastic opportunity for the students to learn about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures…

-Karen Horder, St Ursula’s College teacher

At the end of the program, the students and artistic advisor, Sharon Zeeman, taught the St Ursula’s students a ‘sit-down’ song from the Torres Strait called Kaiapi. They also answered questions from the St Ursula’s teachers and students.

Sharon Zeeman said the show offered the students a little bit of insight into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures showcased through dance, song and some really reflective moments.

“We shared both traditional and contemporary aspects to show that our cultures are continuing, surviving, thriving and a vibrant part of the emerging Australian culture.”

Karen Horder, Aboriginal Education teacher at St Ursula’s College, said the Goodjarga performance was a fantastic opportunity for the students to learn about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, and to see how important it is to the identity of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

“It is also good for our students to learn about Australia’s past and appreciate the contribution of Indigenous Australians.”

'Growing in Culture' ensemble performs at St Ursula's College.

St Ursula’s students learn an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander dance.

Goodjarga member Jye Rich, in Year 8 at De La Salle Catholic College Ashfield, said he really enjoyed expressing his culture to other students through dancing.

“The reactions from the kids has been great,” Jye said.

Elizabeth Lorente, in Year 9 at St Ursula’s College, also enjoyed the reactions of the children, particularly in Primary schools.

“Seeing them dance while we were dancing, especially the Aboriginal kids, was great.”

Elizabeth also spoke about the value of being part of Goodjarga and the ‘Growing in Culture’ ensemble.

“It has given me more confidence. I would never get up on stage before. Now I feel confident and I have learnt so many things about my culture.”

Olivia Denis echoed Elizabeth’s words, saying she loved being up on stage and representing who she is and the audience responding.

“I just feel uplifted by it!”

The Goodjarga ‘Growing in Culture’ ensemble also performed at: St Aloysius Catholic Primary Cronulla, St Vincent’s Catholic Primary School Ashfield, St Agnes’ Catholic Primary School Matraville, Holy Family Catholic Primary School Menai, St Therese Catholic Primary Schools Sadleir, All Saints Catholic Primary School Liverpool, St Christopher’s Catholic Primary School Panania, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Primary School Waterloo and St Andrew’s Catholic Primary School Malabar.

To find out more about Goodjarga click here.


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