The Eden Public School Koori Dance Group is stepping up preparations for NAIDOC Week, during which they will perform for their peers and conduct workshops for several schools at the Jigamy Aboriginal Keeping Place.
The group, comprised of around 30 stage two and three students (Years 3-6) is now practicing once a week under the guidance of Gulaga Dancers creator Uncle Warren Foster, as NAIDOC Week celebrations draw nearer.
The group will also hold a ceremony at the school to commemorate the week, as well as performing at Eden Marine High School during their celebrations, to be held after the school holidays.
K-2 students also have a chance to participate, and recently performed welcome and berry picking dances taught to them by teacher’s aide, Uncle Corey Stewart, at the Eden preschool during National Families Week.
Teacher Jenny Edwards says the group has been in place at the school for about five years, and helps instill a great deal of cultural pride in those who participate.
“To start off with, there were only a few kids doing it, but once they got into it they got a real positive feeling about it and now they’re lining up to be part of it,” she said.
“All the little kids want to be involved, and it’s really good to see because the older kids sort of take on a mentoring role.
“Some of the older ones show a real sense of culture and lead the little ones around in the dances and look after them.
“There's also a group from the high school, which is great for the Year 6 kids who are going there next year, because it gives them someone to buddy up and connect with.
“It’s also an opportunity to socialise and grow confidence.”
And the performances aren’t just restricted to special occasions like NAIDOC Week.
Mrs Edwards says the group performs all around the area, at events including the Eden Whale Festival, along with regular trips to the Aboriginal Keeping Place.
“Out at Jigamy, you only have to look at the faces of the Elders and the people out there to see that there’s so much pride,” she said.
“It’s great for the kids to be able to show their culture to the non-indigenous kids too, and during NAIDOC Week, everyone including the non-indigenous kids will participate and learn.
“There are obviously great benefits for the kids who are put of the group, and I think seeing those kids lead the dances and be part of the workshops gives the others the self-esteem and inspiration to have a go themselves.
“And Uncle Warren and Uncle Corey do it in such a way and it’s all about respect and understanding of the culture.
“It’s a fantastic program for the students to be involved in.”