Music, dance, elders’ luncheon mark
NAIDOC Week at Cowra High School
Above: Pictures from the NAIDOC Week celebration courtesy of Cheryl McAllister.
WHILE NAIDOC Week actually falls during the first week of the July school holidays, Cowra schools instead celebrated during the last week of term. Celebrations began with the official Aboriginal flag-raising ceremony held on the front lawn of Cowra High School on Monday morning.
Les Coe spoke about the Aboriginal Tent Embassy which was first set up in Canberra 40 years ago, then performed the flag raising accompanied by Leroy Johnson on didgeridoo and Caragh O’Brien, Krystil Spicer, Brianna and Monique Elbourne-Gordon on clap-sticks.
Tuesday was a massive day of celebration. Three students travelled to Forbes to contest the Lachlan NAIDOC Challenge Debating competition, which they won for the second year running, and a large number of Aboriginal community members attended the NAIDOC morning tea held in the school hall.
Elder, Esther Cutmore, had the job of cutting the huge NAIDOC Week cake made by Evans’ Cake Shop. The guests then stayed on to watch the Indigenous Showcase Concert called Waganha bu Gudhi (dance and song in Wiradjuri).
This showcased the talented singers, dancers, poets and beat boxers who, except Leroy, were all from Wiradjuri country.
The concert was performed before a packed hall which included students and staff from Cowra Public, Mulyan Public, Holman Place, Holmwood and Koorawatha Public Schools and Cowra High.
Year 11 students Jyedn Murray and Tameeka Tighe were the comperes for the occasion. Artists included singers including Michaela Jeffries and Ebony Williams of Year 12, staff members Letetia Harris and Leroy Johnson, Jesse James and Kuyan Pitt.
Two Aboriginal dance groups also performed – the Cowra male group called the Waganha Dancers as well as Cowra High’s Wagambirra Dance Group. Wagambirra were pleased to have their former member, Tilly Lambshead, back again to perform with them.
Performance poet, Josh Simpson, recited some of his amazing, original poems. Last on the program were two talented special guests, beat boxer Bruce Carr and singer Evelyn (or Evie J) Willie.
Both travelled from Sydney where they are now based, although they are originally from Wellington. Evelyn is very excited about her upcoming tour with Christine Anu.
Organisers have expressed their appreciation to concert sponsors Cowra Shire Council and Save Power, and Mulyan Public School’s Jane Jeffries, who did an enormous job in organising the event.
Thanks also to Laurie King for his help with the sound and lighting and to Bernie Finlay for filming the concert.
Wednesday saw Cowra High hosting the first ever NAIDOC Elders’ Luncheon, which was catered by Year 11 Hospitality students and their teacher Muriel Corey.
The lunch recognised the respect in which the school community holds the elders. The three-course lunch was well attended and everyone had a wonderful time catching up, with many requests for further such events.
The first ever Aboriginal education assistant appointed in Cowra, Judy Harris, travelled back from Canberra to attend.
Ms Harris started work at Cowra Public School more than 30 years ago.
Thanks to both Cowra Services Club and Cowra Rotary Club for sponsoring the luncheon.
The occasion was also used to display the stunning artwork recently completed by the current girls’ Breakaway Program participants under the guidance of Aboriginal artist, Nyree Reynolds.
Celebrations finished at Cowra High on Friday with music, face painting, a free barbecue, lamb curry and beef stew, and traditional indigenous games enjoyed by the whole school.