‘Impactful’ cultural project getting kids back in class

First Nations Elder Aunty Jude Hammond (Gunggari/Kamilaroi) with a Songline sculpture.

Curious about why a bunch of kids were hanging around a train station rather than attending school, First Nations Elder Aunty Jude Hammond (Gunggari/Kamilaroi) did a simple thing – she asked them.

That conversation evolved into a year-long multi-arts project that brought First Nations culture back into schools, kids back into class and a sculptural showcase to Caloundra Regional Gallery.

Contemporary Songlines – Dhakkan/Mundagudda (Rainbow Serpent) and Maroochy (Black Swan) Project is on at the Caloundra Regional Gallery 22 June – 18 August, and is the culmination of an impactful collaboration with First Nations youth and women.

Project creator, lead and cultural arts project curator, Aunty Jude Hammond (Gunggari/Kamilaroi) said in an interview with Caloundra Regional Gallery that the project came from humble beginnings.

“I was at the Nambour Railway Station, and I saw there was a lot of mob that was supposed to be at school, just hanging about,” Aunty Jude said.

“So, I asked them what would work for them, to try and get them back to school.

“They responded that the school really needs to have more cultural programs and that would be a solution for them.”

Fast forward a couple of years and in a 12-month collaboration with First Nations Elders and community, schools and government, Aunty Jude, who was supported by Jaiva Davis (Gubbi Gubbi) First Nations cultural arts trainee, delivered the solution.

The solution was a program that partnered with First Nations custodians, dancers, weavers, filmmakers and musicians, to enable First Nations students to learn new skills, explore their own cultural identity and traditions, build on their social relationships, belonging and sharing in an environment of mutual respect and positivity.

The program is showcased in an exhibition now on at the Reginal Gallery and features:

– 58 individual metal/ceramic songline sculptures, which represent connections to place, people and ancestors

– A seven-minute documentary style film by Jon Coghill, capturing glimpses of First Nations students from Burnside, Caloundra, Maroochydore and Noosa District state high schools, at various cultural camps, learning about traditional dance and creating dances and songs in collaboration with classically-trained musicians and the Bangarra Rekindling Dance mob

– A range of hands-on immersive public programs, including Mindful Art (art and dementia), kids drawing, yarning, air-dry clay creations and an up-late street party. Bookings can be made at gallery.sunshinecoast.qld.gov.au

Sunshine Coast Council Community Portfolio Councillor Taylor Bunnag said the cross-culture, collaboration had not only solved the problem of getting kids back to school, it had improved students’ engagement with their education.

“Aunty Jude’s curiosity and approach to this particular truancy problem shows how important it is to integrate First Nations culture into teaching programs,” Cr Bunnag said.

“It really does take a village, something represented by the diverse range of project supports and partners involved in getting this program off the ground.

“We’ve seen different levels of government working together, creative input from the gallery and, most importantly, the essential involvement of so many First Nations Elders and community.”