Thursday, October 27, 2011

Conference culture

I was in Darwin last week for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Conference. It was a stimulating, energising three day conference..with lots to learn and some successes to celebrate (as well as the continuing HUGE challenges).

At the end of each day there were opportunities to experience some unique Northern Territory Aboriginal culture.

In the late afternoon of the first day we were invited to join some prominent Larrakia elders and their families for a picnic style meal after a tour of special sacred Aboriginal sites around Darwin.

This beautiful child, all the way from Groote Eylandt, across the Arafura Sea from East Arnhem Land, was never out of the arms of some loving family member. I was amused by how much she enjoyed having her photograph taken.

The Darwin Mills sisters are part of the extended family too, and a wonderfully wild bunch of women. Ali "Arjibuk" Mills (on the right) had a national hit last year with her
Waltjim Bat Matilda (Yes, that well known song about a sheep duffer, sung in Aboriginal Creole). They would have sung and played and told us wild stories all night!

We met lots of Territory school kids too..including the winners of the Northern Territory Battle of the School Bands this year. They performed all their own material and were exceptional musicians and singers.

Their school was in Yirrkala which is in Yolgnu country (where some of Skinnyfish Music's best artists, including Yothu Yindi and Gurrumul are from). English is a second or third language for these kids, but they all sing in English.

.....and young male dance groups from schools on Elcho Island, just off the North East coast of East Arnhem Land.

We also met some bright spark young urban Aboriginal kids too. The stand out was young (only 14) Jody from Darwin High School who'd impressed us all with her searching question from the audience on last week's Q&A session on the ABC (which coincidentally was filmed in Darwin the week I was there).

Did I mention that Rob came along for the ride too? We even had time to enjoy a drink together on Darwin's beautiful Waterfront before the conference dinner on Wednesday night.

The dinner entertainment was amazing..the most laughs I've had in a long time. It had everything: kids dancing (early on), another performance by Ali Mills, and an incredibly non PC Aboriginal comedian who did the funniest skit I've ever seen about the way Europeans dance compared to the way black people dance.

And, incredibly, there were Aboriginal "gender illusionists" too, who must have spent every waking hour of their lives watching Tina Turner and Beyonce on MTV!

This is me doing my white (old) girl dancing..and not worrying at all about how silly I looked in this company!!

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