CENTRAL West school students recently had the opportunity to attend art and cultural workshops at the Bathurst Regional Art Gallery (BRAG).
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Students from Bathurst, Sofala, Carcoar, Spring Hill, Hampton and surrounding areas were invited to attend workshops that focused on Aboriginal art, language and culture.
These workshops saw lessons delivered from Wiradyuri Elder Aunty Gloria Dindima Rogers and an art making class delivered by Wiradyuri artist Ronda Sharpe.
Ms Sharpe guided students through the process of making and decorating clay coolamons.
Around 160 students participated in these workshops, and once completed, their coolamons will create a large collaborative artwork and will feature as an exhibition at BRAG in November.
This exhibition will be named Gunhigal Nguambang Wiradyuri Mayiny.
Coolamons are a traditional Aboriginal tool used by women to carry water, fruit, nuts and to cradle babies, and were traditionally made with bark from Scar trees.
Artist Ronda Sharpe said she loves teaching children all about Indigenous art and history.
"It's important to teach the children how our First Nations art isn't all about dot painting. There's so many different variants of art in music and film and visual arts," she said.
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This is why Ms Sharpe decided that teaching children how to make coolamons was an important way of acknowledging Indigenous history in a contemporary setting.
"It's lovely to be able to teach the children about how coolamons were made and why our scar trees are so important because they represent our gathering spaces and where our ancestors live," she said.
"To be able to expose the children to Indigenous visual art is such a privilege."
Aunty Gloria also led the students in a culture and language workshop.
Students were shown a book of Aboriginal drawings and animals which included their traditional Wiradyuri names.
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She also showed children Indigenous artefacts such as clapping sticks and a dilly bag, as well as teaching children to count to five in Wiradyuri.
Students were also invited to ask questions while holding the talking stick, which was used in powerful communication protocols.
Aunty Gloria said that being a part of these programs is incredibly important to her as education is something she is passionate about.
"I love coming into the schools and sharing culture and knowledge with the young people," she said.
"The schools program that I'm doing at the moment is an inspiring program because it is teaching the children about language and culture.
"Aboriginal culture is very deep, and if we can scratch the surface and light the spark, and hopefully as the children grow, someone will be able to fan that spark because the more we learn about ethnic cultures, the better we are as a nation."
The passion Aunty Gloria showed to educating young people was obvious to fellow educator Samantha Milligan, classroom teacher at Carcoar Public School.
Ms Milligan said that the hands on experience was something that the children loved.
"To have the art making and to learn culture from Aunty Gloria was amazing," she said.
They were grateful for the experience as the small school, which is located approximately 45 minutes from major regional centres, can often be forgotten when it comes to programs of this nature.
"Being in such a small school, we don't often get the opportunities to do these sorts of things," Ms Milligan said.
"Sometimes we get a little bit forgotten or it's a bit hard for us to travel to things, so it's really nice for us to be invited to do something like this."
For BRAG director Sarah Gurich, the program is all about developing connections with young people and providing students with foundational education.
"This program is a really important opportunity to connect the gallery to primary schools in the region and to connect primary school students and teachers with Wiradyuri art, artists, language and culture," she said.
"I think that these kind of programs are really formative especially when they're aimed at primary school students."
Ms Gurich said that the program was incredibly well received and had around 10 schools from the region participating.
The program is run in conjunction with the Art Gallery of NSW and the department of education and training.
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