Home' Teacher : February 2010 Contents 14 TE ACHER JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2010
particularly so in remote Indigenous com-
According to Mel Howard, formerly
assistant principal at Gunbalanya CEC,
The Song Room program is 'the only activ-
ity at school that students elect to attend.'
With irregular attendance endemic and so
disruptive of school programs and individ-
ual learning, it's no wonder that Howard
believes a program like The Song Room
should be operating in all schools.
Sustaining quality programs
Find a turtle -- dig away the mud
Wash that turtle -- put it in the shade, where
Sustainability: it's one of those words you
hear a lot when talking to people who live
and work in remote Indigenous communi-
ties, but sustaining quality programs isn't
easy with the high turnover of staff both
in schools and in government offices, and
without the kind of basic infrastructure and
consistency of ser vice provision that most of
us take for granted. Cooperation, partner-
ships and community capacity are the keys
to sustained outcomes.
Indigenous people make up 60 per cent of
the Barkly region's population, a huge area
centred on Tennant Creek between Darwin,
Alice Springs and Mount Isa which is about
a fifth of the Northern Territory.
In this vast region, teaching artists for
The Song Room are working closely with
Barkly Regional Arts to deliver the Barkly
Community Rhythm Project. Funded by
a range of supporters including Rio Tinto
Aboriginal Fund and the Commonwealth
Attorney-General's Department, the project
is an early intervention program for chil-
dren, young people and families in remote
Indigenous communities. It aims to reduce
antisocial behaviour and juvenile crime
through music and arts programs that
enhance participants' social skills, self-
esteem and community engagement. Most
importantly, the project aims to develop the
skills and qualifications of local Indigenous
men and women to ensure the achievement
of more sustainable outcomes.
Turtle in a bag, big mob, lots of food
Cook on fire, break neck, yummy food
At Canteen Creek, 260 kilometres south
east of Tennant Creek, another husband
and wife team has made a long-term com-
mitment to a remote community school.
Ben and Susannah Hollands have worked
at Owairtilla School for the past five years.
Under Ben's leadership as teaching prin-
cipal, Owairtilla has changed the focus
from student behaviour and attendance
to student achievement and success. The
number of enrolments has doubled and
there are now 100 students ranging from
pre-school to Year 12. In 2008, Hollands
travelled from Canteen Creek to Canberra
to receive the Excellence in School Improve-
ment -- Best National Achievement prize at
the Commonwealth government National
Awards for Quality Schooling.
'The Song Room program was brilliant,'
says Hollands. 'It certainly improved the
vibe amongst students and developed teach-
Each of the 10 schools involved in the
Barkly Community Rhythm Project are
receiving a tailored program specific to
their needs. Some, like Alekarenge Primary
School, requested outcome-based projects,
and will write, perform and record their
own CD of songs.
The sense of achievement is palpable.
'The last two weeks went off! We man-
aged to record 12 original songs with the
students,' says Jeffrey McLaughlin, the
Winanjjikari music outreach program
coordinator at Barkly Arts. 'The teachers
and students have really embraced this pro -
Kungkas and guitars
1 2 3 4 Long-neck turtle hunting
At Yulara, 1,000 kilometres away at the
tourist village adjacent to Uluru, a part-
nership between Nya ngatjatjara College,
Mission Australia and The Song Room has
led to a tailored music program for a group
of young women from the Lassetter region.
Nyangatjatjara College is an independent
secondary college that serves three closely
related communities at Mutitjulu, Imanpa
and Kaltukatjara or Docker River. The day
school campuses at each of the three com-
munities are complemented by a boarding
school campus at Yulara.
While the school is coeducational, tradi-
tional gender segregation creates challenges
that require creative solutions to deliver
effective educational outcomes.
As Song Room teaching artist Jeanette
Wormald explains, 'The girls and young
women were getting few opportunities to
access musical instru ments , especially elec-
tric guitars and drums, which are seen as the
young men's domain.' Mind you, Wormald
quickly points out, this is a contemporary
rather than traditional cultural attitude.
'Our "Kungkas and Guitars" proposal was
designed specifically to create a safe space to
help the girls re-engage with education using
music as a medium,' she says.
With donated guitars painted in pink
and bright traditional Anangu designs, the
kungkas, or women, have embraced the
Like Aebersold, Wormald pinpoints
partnerships between schools, communi-
ties, governments and non-govern ment
organisations as the key to successful, sus-
'It's only early days,' she says, with a
laugh. 'I've adapted a local song and I would
dearly love to have the girls perform next
month, but I'm not sure if we can pull it
off just yet.'
Giving a school a heart
1 2 3 4 Long- neck turtle hunting
The light in the faces of the children, teach-
ers and assistants as they rehearse a song
that they've written themselves, about them-
selves, is a wonderful sight to see. It's a flash
of that rare and precious sense of achieve-
ment, of having done something good.
The teachers at Gunbalanya talk with
excitement not only about the increased
levels of attendance, participation and gen-
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