26 February 2013

Coal & Allied supports Aboriginal arts and dance residencies at local school

Pictured: Back row left to right, Coal & Allied Aboriginal Relations Specialist Cate Sims, Cessnock Aboriginal artist and Wanaruah Elder Les Elvin, Rosary Park Catholic School Indigenous Support Teacher Caroline Kennedy and School Principal Will Callinan. Front row left to right, Rosary Park Catholic School Year Four students Ashleigh Bettison, Faith Thorpe and Brianna Smith.

Rosary Park Catholic School students will benefit from a new cultural programme that is supporting the short term residencies of an Aboriginal artist and dance teacher at the school thanks to funding from the Coal & Allied Aboriginal Community Development Fund.

The programme, Respect and Knowledge, was launched recently with renowned Aboriginal Cessnock artist and Wanaruah Elder Les Elvin running interactive art classes at the school. The dance teacher is set to commence next term.

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 will significantly support the students' learning of Aboriginal culture. Les has won countless regional, national and international awards for his work. He has been a strong supporter of our school for the last three years using his art expertise in various fundraisers and art judging panels and we're very excited to have him back.

"We have more than 200 children in our school and over seven per cent of these identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. Where we can, we've always tried to integrate cultural activities and education in our curriculum such as NAIDOC week activities, Sorry Day activities and incorporating Aboriginal culture and history into the students' lessons.

"However, we haven't had the resources to keep increasing their exposure to Aboriginal culture within the school. I decided to approach the Coal & Allied Aboriginal Community Development Fund with a proposal enabling an artist and dance teacher to host cultural lessons within the school and we were pleased that they came on board. We'll also be encouraging parents to be involved in the programme by inviting different parents to come along each week and develop their own understanding of Aboriginal culture."

Cessnock Aboriginal artist and Wanaruah Elder Les Elvin said: "I am proud to be involved in this programme, which I believe is important in helping our local students and the wider school community understand our local Aboriginal culture, heritage and customs. Over the next eight weeks, I will work with students from year three to six in a range of areas. Firstly they will learn the basics on 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 that represents 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 for the school at the end."

Rosary Park Catholic School Year Six Student Madeleine Hughes said: "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."

Rosary Park Catholic School Year Six Student Sophie Cunningham said: "We also drew Aboriginal symbols and we will be painting them on canvases to display."

Coal & Allied Aboriginal Relations Specialist Cate Sims said: "The Fund is proud to partner with the school to launch this new programme, which will help create a regular presence and continue raising understanding and appreciation of Aboriginal art, culture and practices in the school community. It will also help Aboriginal students continue connecting with their own culture and enrich the learning of non-Indigenous children, which can potentially filter into the wider community."

Pictured: Rosary Park Catholic School Year Three Student Drew Wiseman with Cessnock Aboriginal artist and Wanaruah Elder Les Elvin.

About Coal & Allied

Coal & Allied has been part of the Hunter Valley community for more than 165 years and today manages three open cut coal mines. We aim to achieve shared value with members of the communities in which we operate. Our operations create not only economic value - but value for society by addressing communities' needs and challenges.

In 2011 our operations employed more than 2500 employees and over 1500 contractors, and spent more than $1.7 billion with close to 1300 businesses across NSW. To date our community development funds have invested more than $13 million in the Hunter Valley and have recommitted a further $4.5 million over three years commencing in 2012 to build stronger, smarter and more sustainable communities around our operations.

ENDS

Website: www.riotintocoalaustralia.com.au/media
Email: naomi.jamieson@riotinto.com
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Media release - Coal & Allied supports Aboriginal arts and dance residencies at local school [PDF: 77 KB]