At Concordia Lutheran College in Toowoomba, there are young Indigenous students learning to be Two Ways Strong; strong in their Indigenous heritage and strong in mainstream Australian culture. These students travel up to two days just to attend school each term, from a small island in the Torres Straits, for example, to a town of over 100,000 people.
“Two Ways Strong is a powerful message and story for young Indigenous students attending boarding schools or thinking about attending boarding schools outside of their home communities,” says Tina Raye, ILF Program Manager. “It’s also an important story for the wider non-Indigenous community to learn about the many challenges these Indigenous students face.”
Earlier this month, ILF visited Concordia and facilitated writing workshops with 12 Indigenous students. The 12 students came from a variety of communities – from Dauan Island in the Torres Strait to Lockhart River and Palm Island in far north Queensland to Cherbourg, 200 kilometres north of Toowoomba.
Over three days, the aim of the workshops was to create a story about a young Indigenous student coming to board at Concordia – the story would be an amalgam of all the students’ experience. The students wrote, watched some inspiring short videos about writing stories from the creators of Pixar films like Toy Story and Monsters Inc., created some fantastic works of art, shared experiences, laughed a lot, wrote some more, broke off into groups for more intense work on the story, laughed some more, wrote some more, and painted some more, and the end result was the first draft of a book! The hushed silence and engrossed looks said it all as the story was read aloud for the first time to the group, ‘Wow, we did this, we wrote this story!’
We had a dynamic team facilitate the writing workshops including author Claire Scobie, who led the workshops, Kristine Ellis, Indigenous writer, and Kathy Mossop from ILF. Wonderful staff at the college including Jane Smith, librarian/archivist and Kerrie S, Indigenous Support Teacher also supported the workshops.
To celebrate the book and students achievements, Two-Ways Strong will be launched during the Brisbane Writers Festival, 6 – 9 September, by our Foundation’s Patron, Quentin Bryce.
The writing workshops and book were part of ILF’s Community Literacy Projects, which publishes books written by the community, for the community.