Northern NSW students kick off NAIDOC Week Gamilaraay style

Five northern inland schools gave NAIDOC Week an early start with creative workshops and featuring a collective singing of the classic ‘Stand By Me’ in Gamilaraay language.

Image: Students of all ages gathered to celebrate local Aboriginal culture

Students from five far northern inland schools have kicked off NAIDOC Week early in Gamilaraay style, with a celebration hosted by Collarenebri Central School in the last week of Term 2 on Gamilaraay / Kamilaroi Country in the Walgett Shire.

Students from around the region visited Collarenebri for a performance by Castlereagh Connection, an all-indigenous band with students from Coonamble Public School, as seen on The Voice.

The band also taught students the lyrics for their Gamilaraay cover of Stand By Me, before performing the song with students, elders, teachers and community members in what was a beautiful celebration of unity and Gamilaraay culture ringing true to this year’s NAIDOC theme of Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up!.

Collarenebri Central School had hosted several days of creative workshops with leading practitioners from around the state in the lead-up to the event, supported by the BLAK C.O.R.E. collective - Dr Brook Garru Andrew, Budi Miller and Rebecca Quin from Museums and Collections, University of Melbourne, with inaugural Mordant Family BLAK C.O.R.E.

Fellow and British Kenyan artist Grace Ndiritu ran performance, visual arts and textiles workshops. Choreography and dance workshops were run by Gamilaraay performer Katie Leslie, painting workshops by Sydney-based British artist Martin Claydon and hands-on photography and videography training by Henry Simmons of Ribbon Gang.

Workshops continued on the day of the event with all schools joining in and learning dances and Gamilaraay language taught through song. Martin Claydon prepared painting activities and banners for each school to take home and also designed the t-shirts from the event.

Grace Ndiritu and the BLAK C.O.R.E team ran fashion and textiles workshops culminating in a handmade found-fashion catwalk by senior students. Ribbon Gang’s Henry Simmons was on hand teaching students how to use cameras and document events themselves.

Collarenebri Central School’s Aboriginal Education Officer Roslyn McGregor said the day was a great success.

“Education is central to all we do in ensuring that truth telling takes place, and in making sure that all people have the real facts about Aboriginal people’s cultures and histories in Australia,” she said.

“Days like today I hope are only one of many in which we participate together, and engage in the real issues. As Aboriginal people, we don’t blame, we want to work together as a strong community, with each other and with non-Aboriginal people. We want to work together for a shared future. And today was a great start.”

Molly, a senior student at Collarenebri Central School, said so many different people meeting with one purpose made the day special.

“I really like us coming together as one through learning and teamwork with friends from our schools and from other schools,” she said.

“I don’t identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander but I’ve grown up here and coming together, learning language and speaking to elders about their stories has helped us learn more about the Aboriginal cultures. It’s really good for different generations to come together and celebrate something that is really important to Indigenous communities.”

The schools involved were Collarenebri Central School, Boggabilla Central School, Goodooga Central School, Mungindi Central School and Rowena Public School.

You can watch the performance on Collarenebri Central School's Facebook page:

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