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Curious about why a bunch of kids were hanging around a train station rather than attending school, First Nations Elder Aunty Jude Hammond (Gunggari/Kamilaroi) did a simple thing – she just asked them.

That conversation evolved into a year-long multi-arts project that brought First Nations culture back into schools, kids back into class and a sculptural showcase to Caloundra Regional Gallery.

Latest exhibition at Caloundra Regional Gallery

Contemporary Songlines - Dhakkan/Mundagudda (Rainbow Serpent) and Maroochy (Black Swan) Project is on at the Caloundra Regional Gallery June 22 – August 18, and is the culmination of an impactful collaboration with First Nations youth and women.

Project creator, lead and cultural arts project curator, Aunty Jude Hammond  (Gunggari/Kamilaroi) said in an interview with Caloundra Regional Gallery that the project came from humble beginnings.

“I was at the Nambour Railway Station, and I saw there was a lot of mob that was supposed to be at school, just hanging about,” Aunty Jude said.

“So, I asked them what would work for them, to try and get them back to school.

“They responded that the school really needs to have more cultural programs and that would be a solution for them.”

School students working on their projects

The schools involved in this project have reported students being more engaged with some even returning after a period of absence.

Caloundra SHS students
Noosa SHS students
Teacher with Burnside SHS students
Noosa SHS students

Fast forward a couple of years and in a 12-month collaboration with First Nations Elders and community, schools and government, Aunty Jude, who was supported by Jaiva Davis (Gubbi Gubbi) First Nations cultural arts trainee, delivered the solution.

First Nations Women's Ceramic Group working on their clay sculptures

The solution was a program that partnered with First Nations custodians, dancers, weavers, filmmakers and musicians, to enable First Nations students to learn new skills, explore their own cultural identity and traditions, build on their social relationships, belonging and sharing in an environment of mutual respect and positivity.

  • 58 individual metal/ceramic songline sculptures, which represent connections to place, people and ancestors
  • a seven-minute documentary style film by Jon Coghill, capturing glimpses of First Nations students from Burnside, Caloundra, Maroochydore and Noosa District state high schools, at various cultural camps, learning about traditional dance and creating dances and songs in collaboration with classically-trained musicians and the Bangarra Rekindling Dance mob
  • a range of hands-on immersive public programs, including Mindful Art (art and dementia), kids drawing, yarning, air-dry clay creations and an up-late street party. Bookings can be made at gallery.sunshinecoast.qld.gov.au

Sunshine Coast Council Community Portfolio Councillor Taylor Bunnag said the cross-culture, collaboration had not only solved the problem of getting kids back to school, it had improved students’ engagement with their education.

“Aunty Jude’s curiosity and approach to this particular truancy problem shows how important it is to integrate First Nations culture into teaching programs,” Cr Bunnag said.

“It really does take a village, something represented by the diverse range of project supports and partners involved in getting this program off the ground.

"We’ve seen different levels of government working together, creative input from the gallery and, most importantly, the essential involvement of so many First Nations Elders and community.”  

The project was supported by:

  • Queensland Government's Grow First Nations Arts Grant
  • Sunshine Coast Council Major Grant
  • Caloundra Regional Gallery

Project Partners

  • Aunty Jude Hammond, Project Creator, Curator and Mentor
  • Jaiva Davis, First Nations Cultural Arts Trainee with ‘Project’ and ‘Integrated and Family Youth Services’
  • Principals, teachers, assistants and First Nations students at Burnside, Caloundra, Maroochydore and Noosa District state high schools.
  • Cooroy Butter Factory Art Centre
  • First Nations Women's Ceramic Group
  • North Coast Aboriginal Corporation for Community Health
  • Elders and community who assisted with the projects

Stay up to date with all the latest news, events and exhibitions by subscribing to the e-newsletter at gallery.sunshinecoast.qld.gov.au or following @caloundraregionalgallery on Facebook and Instagram.

Caloundra Regional Gallery, owned and operated by Sunshine Coast Council, is open from 10am, Tuesday to Sunday, and located at 22 Omrah Avenue, Caloundra.