First nations students use poetry to celebrate language and threatened species for NAIDOC

The Southern Highlands marked NAIDOC week (7-14 July) in a special way by bringing together Indigenous language poetry and threatened species conservation.

Glossy black-cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus lathami) in flight

First Nations students' powerful poems will be published on a grand scale on bus backs from July 8 – early September as part of the community's NAIDOC celebrations.

This year's theme of 'Voice. Treaty. Truth. Let's Work Together for a Shared Future' highlights collaboration, creativity and respect for the environment.

The NSW Government's Saving our Species (SoS) program, with Wingecarribee Shire Council and Red Room Poetry presented the poetic and environmental learning project for young First Nations students on Gundungurra Country earlier in this Year of Indigenous Languages.

The students from Aurora Southern Highlands Steiner School, Moss Vale High School, Bowral Public School and Berrima Public School met in March as part of Red Room's Poetry in First Languages (PIFL) project in a 3-day event.

It brought Gundungurra Elder Aunty Sharyn Halls, Gundungurra Language Custodian, Aunty Trish Levett together with (Gundungurra raised Gunai Woman) Kirli Saunders and environmentalist and Gumea Dharawal Custodian Jacob Morris, to create poetry in language while learning about the environment, specifically through the Glossies in the Mist project.

"To celebrate the start of NAIDOC Week, the students' poems in Gundungurra language were unveiled as part of a series of artworks and performed at Wingecarribee Shire Council's Flag raising ceremony, celebrating the significance of country and the Glossy black cockatoo to Gundungurra people," said SoS spokesman Simon Tedder.

"It's great to see this celebration of Gundungurra culture, language and country and to share this with the broader community," said Melissa Wiya, Aboriginal Community Development Officer, Wingecarribee Shire Council.

Kirli Saunders, Red Room Poetic Learning Manager and creator of Poetry in First Languages said the students are so lucky to experience this collaboration of Elders and Custodians, the coming together of cultural and language knowledge and have the opportunity to learn it all by the river.

"I am so excited to see the students' words up there on the buses, sailing around the community for all to see," said Kirli Saunders.

Young Jake Nichols, who is particularly excited to see his poem and his photo on the buses, said: "Let's make our land grow."

More information