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The School

Wollongong High School of the Performing Arts is a specialist co-educational, public secondary school located in Fairy Meadow, a suburb of Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia, run by the New South Wales Department of Education and Training. It was founded in 1916.

The school enrolls both local area students and students who gain entry through auditions. The school estimates that over a third of the student body has gained entry through auditions.

The Project

On 24 October, Yuin poet Kirli Saunders held workshops with Wollongong High School of the Performing Arts and Waniora Public School. These workshops are the first to use the 'Poetry in First Languages' resource, specially tailored to promote connection to country, culture and language. The day focused on poetry in Dharawal Language, with the support of local Language Custodian, Jodi Edwards. Discover the student's poems here. 

Indigenous students heard dreaming stories from local elders and language holders, created poetry about the local landscape and identity and learnt about Dharawal language with the aims to translate sections of their poems and collaborate to perform their poetry.

The Poet

Kirli Saunders

Kirli Saunders is a proud Gunai Woman and an award-winning international Children’s Author and Poet as well as a Teacher, and emerging Artist. She created and led Red Room Poetry's Poetry in First Languages program from its conception until July 2020. Her debut picture book The Incredible Freedom Machines was shortlisted for the Prime Minister's Literary Awards and CBCA notables. Her poetry collection, Kindred was shortlisted for the ABIA 2020 Book Awards and FAB Booktopia Awards. She is the inaugural winner of the Daisy Utemorrah Award and University of Canberra ATSI Poetry prize (2019). She is an esteemed judge for the Val Vallis Poetry Prize. Kirli is the 2020 NSW Aboriginal Woman of the Year.



Taking a dream from conception to delivery – Poetry in First Languages – Kirli Saunders