Integral to the program is the presence of an Aboriginal ‘artist in residence’ followed by a ‘dancer in residence’, each for several weeks. The program, titled “Respect and Knowledge”, allows students the opportunity to gain ‘inside’ knowledge and appreciation of Aboriginal culture with a local flavour.
Renowned Cessnock Aboriginal artist and Wanaruah Elder Les Elvin is running interactive art classes at the school and a dance component is now being offered. “Respect and Knowledge” is only possible because of the support of the Coal & Allied Aboriginal Community Development Fund.
Rosary Park Catholic School Indigenous Support Teacher Caroline Kennedy said, “It’s a privilege that Les Elvin has agreed to be our artist in residence and he will significantly support the students’ learning about Aboriginal culture. Les has won countless regional, national and international awards for his work. He has been a strong supporter of our school for three years, using his art expertise in various fundraisers and art judging panels, so we’re very excited to have him back.
“We have more than 200 children in our school and over seven per cent identify as Aboriginal
or Torres Strait Islander. Where we can, we’ve always tried to integrate cultural activities, such as NAIDOC Week and Sorry Day, in our curriculum, and to incorporate Aboriginal culture and history into lessons.
“We’ll also be encouraging parents to be involved by inviting them to come along each week and develop their understanding of Aboriginal culture.”
Les Elvin is “proud to be involved in this program, which I believe is important in helping our students and the wider school community understand our local Aboriginal culture, heritage and customs. Over eight weeks, I’m working with students from Years 3 to 6. Firstly, they will learn the basics of how to maintain their work space and this includes explaining each of their art tools, how to mix paint, how to keep their area tidy and properly store their work. Then they will move onto learning about Aboriginal symbols and how they can be used to tell a story. Finally, they will learn about dreamtime astrology and how our culture has a different animal to represent each month. They will learn to sketch and paint different animals before completing a couple of their own paintings, which will go into an exhibition at the end.”
Coal & Allied Aboriginal Relations Specialist Cate Sims said, “The Fund is proud to partner with the school to launch this program. It will help Aboriginal students continue connecting with their own culture and also enrich the learning of non-Indigenous children, which can potentially filter into the wider community.”
Year 6 student, Madeleine Hughes, is enjoying the program, "We took it in turns to work with Les in the hall. It was fun learning how to draw different Aboriginal pictures like a platypus and a turtle.”