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When Aboriginal culture meets motor racing

Bringing together timeless culture and motor racing is the driving force behind an inspirational project centred on an iconic Bathurst mountain.

A school student holds a poster showing his racing car design, with another student using a racing simulator behind him

Cody Howe of Denison College Kelso High Campus will be the first to have his Aboriginal design as a racing livery on the Wahluu Racing Team Project simulator racing cars.

Tens of thousands of years before the first engines roared on Bathurst’s world-famous Mount Panorama motor racing circuit, young men were challenged on the Mount.

Now an exciting program involving students from Denison College Bathurst High and Kelso High campuses has combined the motivation of modern day motor-racing with deep lessons about the culture of the sacred mountain.

Embracing the modern technology of race car simulators and computer-based design, the Wahluu Racing Team Project also taps into millenniums of Aboriginal cultural heritage.

As local Wiradjuri Elder Dinawan Dyirribang (meaning Old Man Emu in Wiradjuri), or Uncle Bill Allen, explained Wahluu is the time-honoured name of the mountain.

It has long been a traditional male initiation site.

Today the Mount Panorama circuit on Wahluu has become a mecca for motor racing enthusiasts who flock in their tens of thousands for the annual Bathurst 1000 V8 Supercar showdown in October and other events throughout the year.

Dinawan Dyirribang said the Wahluu Racing Team Project brings these two elements together.

“Through the way we tell the story of Wahluu and the significance of the mountain we tie it in with what the motor racing is about,” Dinawan said.

“The way we put it across it gives them two perspectives.

“It’s a place where young boys went for initiation and they were guided through the challenges by the Elders so they could pass the test.

“We bring the same parallels to the car racing.

“The racing drivers are like fellas going for their initiation up there on the track and they’re being guided by their elders: Dick Johnson, Allan Grice, Skaifey and all those fellas who have been around give the young drivers that guidance.

“So it’s about the significance of that place in the two spaces – it’s one place but two spaces – and how they can come together in a respectful way.”

Art is one way that the Wahluu Racing Team Project has brought motor racing and culture together with students designing their own livery skins for the cars they will race on the simulators.

Year 9 Kelso High Campus student Cody Howe will be the first to have his livery on a simulator car.

With pink representing Australian soils and the grey of the night sky and other Aboriginal motifs, Cody’s car is also based on his adopted totem, the Barramundi.

“It’s a fighting fish,” Cody said. “Wahluu has made me see that I’m an alright artist and I never thought I could be.

“It’s been cool learning that things don’t have to be perfect the first time and watching how things got better as we went along.”

Several artists who were viewing the Wahluu Racing Team Project at the recent Artscape conference in Bathurst enthusiastically encouraged Cody to pursue his artistic talents.

As well as designing liveries and racing virtual cars, the project has also used Indigenous chefs to mentor students in catering creating fusion foods with ingredients including kangaroo, crocodile, emu and other bush tucker.

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