Stay Strong

Hi. I’m Roxanne McDonald and I’m descended from
the Central Queensland mob. You know, it can be quite a challenge for Indigenous primary school kids
to stay strong. Many of them
are disadvantaged from birth by poverty, poor health and nutrition,
overcrowding or homelessness, and further stressed
by the death of family members. These children need heaps
of nurturing, encouragement and support. In this program,
we’ll show you some terrific ideas that have been developed
to do just that. In South Australia, there’s a project
where the kids do the shopping, the cooking, and then serve the meal
to their family and community. – I’ll just check…
– Sure. A big, big cheer… ROXANNE: Chris Sarra in Queensland
is passionate about keeping kids strong and confident in school. Hands up if you’re Aboriginal
in the room? Oh, great. Hands up if you think
that’s a real deadly thing? Even better. Rock’n’roll battles! ROXANNE: And talented musician
Steve Berry educates and stimulates remote Indigenous students with music. ♪ GUITAR If children come to school
without breakfast and maybe they missed out
on dinner the night before, they’ll find it hard
to concentrate in class. Nunga Kids Café is a program that links nutrition
and health education with literacy and numeracy, and gives
them a good feed at the same time. The Nunga Kids Café
is a nutrition education program for Year 6-7 children in Port Lincoln. It’s mainly centred around
food purchasing and food preparation and cooking the food
and sharing the food with families. Port Lincoln is a regional town in
South Australia based on Eyre Peninsula. It’s a major sort of aquaculture
and agricultural export town. (Chatter) The Nunga Kids Café arose from,
I guess, an awareness as a dietician of the need to look at the prevention
of illness in Aboriginal communities and working with kids. GIRL: This one looks better
than the other one. MICHAEL: It also arose from a link
with Aboriginal health workers who had the same feeling. The incidence of things like
cardiovascular disease and diabetes and the premature death
of Aboriginal people is one of the major health issues
facing Australia – it’s a huge level of inequity. I’ve got a strong belief that
if we can look at lifestyle issues and the prevention of illness,
and work with kids, we’re looking at a generational change
to improve health outcomes. Ready to put blood on this, right? So, what I’ll do,
I’ll prick your finger. Little prick. You notice there’s high levels of…
sugar levels and that, and there was dental problems
we’d come across, and we thought that
this links to poor nutrition, so we thought about providing
education sessions in schools. So, we linked up with Michael Manders,
and I suppose, from there, that’s when the Nunga Kids Café
really started, I think. MICHAEL: So, they’re the recipes
for tomorrow – the chicken satay
and then the fruity crumble. There are four organisations involved
in this project, and very deliberately. Port Lincoln Aboriginal Health Service, they’ve got the connection
with the Aboriginal community. They know the kids,
they know the families, they know the cultural backgrounds, they’ve got skills in communicating
with their own community. Port Lincoln Health Service
from a health perspective, and that’s where
I’m employed as a dietician, so that’s their involvement in there. The schools, because that’s where the
kids spend most of their time learning. And the Community House,
which is an organisation that was set up about ten years ago,
specifically designed for educational activities
for people with lower incomes. It’s got a café, it’s got a kitchen,
so from our perspective, that was the ideal place
to hold the program as well. What about the next one, Sachin? Four bottles of 500g satay sauce. So, if we’ve got six apples
and we double that, how many apples is that? – 12.
– Yeah. With the key health worker
having an education background, we’ve had a deliberate focus on literacy
and numeracy. So as part of, for example,
shopping for the day’s menu… BOY: Eight sticks celery. ..there’s a key focus on mathematics… WOMAN: Right. You’ve got 12 in here.
You need another 12. ..and our testing is showing
an increase in higher achievement. Those that aren’t achieving
national benchmarks, have actually
significantly increased in their scores. MAN: So, see if you can choose
the one that’s the best price. BOY: What are we looking for?
MAN: Desiccated coconut. You know, literacy and numeracy
are keys to health as well, ’cause there’s a clear relationship
between lower socio-economic and lower educational outcomes
and poorer health outcomes. The program is organised in such a way that a group of children
will come once a fortnight. The very first session
is looking at the Community House and feeling comfortable with the way
the Community House is laid out and learning where things are, opening the cupboards
and seeing where the equipment is. MAN: And we need a tablespoon,
our vegetable peeler and a wooden spoon. Second session, a fortnight after that,
the kids do cooking just for themselves, so they practise teamwork
and they’ve talked about teamwork and the importance of working together. BOY: ‘Peel and core,
then slice thinly.’ Take it off
and then you can chop that up. MICHAEL: And then
the last three sessions are where we invite parents and the guest speaker, so that’s when the work goes up
and the quality goes up, but the fun is there as well. (Chatter) How many tablespoons of margarine
do we need? GIRL: Three
– Well done. Three. One-and-a-half by two is three. WOMAN: OK. Let’s go to the kitchen. – I’ll get it ready for you, alright?
– Mm-hm. GIRL: Aren’t we supposed to take
the chicken skin off to reduce the fat? JEREMY: Well, it is off. First we go and buy the food, and then we run through the instructions
of how to cook it and the utensils. BOY: ‘Sprinkle topping over the fruit.’ And then after it’s all done, usually when
dessert’s cooking in the oven, we usually set the tables
and put the cutlery out. And then we just serve it up. (Chatter) It feels really pleasing because
you know you’ve done it yourself. (Chatter)
And, yeah, you just feel really happy. (Chatter) They’re learning skills,
lifestyle skills, you know,
when they go out on their own. They get the nutritional value,
you know? Different foods to eat.
No, Nathan’s enjoying it very much. Cooperative learning
is really essential, and you know, if you look back at
traditional cultures, they had to cooperate to live. You couldn’t have this sense
of individualism or competitiveness and our education system predominantly is around competition
and competing against each other and getting the best results
for an individual, and not sharing. Whereas if you look at successful
communities, it’s all about sharing. JEREMY: Core the apples. It’s a hard thing
to get across sometimes, but I think, through cooking
and through this experience, it’s a really important message
to keep passing on. PHOTOGRAPHER: Say ‘Chicken satay’. ALL: Chicken satay!
(Laughter) (Camera clicks) So, making sure the kids are well fed
is a great start, but how do you get them
to come to school every day? When Chris Sarra became principal
of Cherbourg School in Queensland, he developed
the Strong and Smart program. He insisted that if the kids believed
they could be strong and smart, then they would be. It’s very much the negative stereotype. When we talk about
Aboriginal children in schools, it’s chronic non-attendance,
chronic underachievers, a little bit aggressive,
very much disengaged – all of these kinds of things that are
very much a stereotype that exists. We can be so stifled by these kind
of negative perceptions that exist to the extent that we can actually stop
young black kids from believing in themselves. That’s a tremendous tragedy and, um…
one day we’ll overcome that. It’s wonderful to be here
in this part of the world. I’ll start as I should, by acknowledging
the traditional custodians of the land, and say thanks,
’cause it’s wonderful to meet you and you’re gonna hear about
some marvellous stories, in fact. You know it’s not only about
the story of what happened in my time at Cherbourg – it’s about… At the institute, we’re determined that we’re gonna change
the tide of low expectation by working with other school leaders,
to arm them with the belief and the capacity that our children
are bright, they are worth investing in and that we can project them
into a stronger, smarter future. (Animated playground chatter) CHILD: Kick him! Kick him! In the first couple of weeks here,
there were children literally running up and down
on top of two-storey buildings. And there was no pride in the school,
there was no sense of, ‘This is our school
and we love our school and this is where we come to learn.’ There was none of that,
and that had to change. When I came to Cherbourg in 1998, I saw the same thing
in these children here that I saw in schools
right throughout the country. MAN: I don’t care
if your mum lets you stay home. I don’t let you.
Now get to school! I listened to teachers explain to me why children were failing so dismally and why
they weren’t coming to school. And they’d say things like,
‘The parents don’t value education. The kids don’t value education.’ All of these kinds of things. And every time we discussed
or we looked for reasons, we were pointing the finger outwards,
and this didn’t make sense to me because we didn’t have any control over what was happening
outside the school gate. We had to be intent on focusing
on the things that we did control, and being the best
that we could be at that. (Children shriek) (Camera clicks) They were the strong and smart, and they were what we say in our song –
young and black and deadly. The very first thing
that I said to kids on parade is that the most important thing
that you will learn from me is that you can be successful
and you can be Aboriginal. When we measured attendance, I’d write the number of absences
for a particular class on the board. – We’re all black here, aren’t we?
CHILDREN: Yeah! Hands up
if you think that’s a great thing, if you love being Aboriginal. Hands down. If we’re all Aboriginal in here –
which we are – that doesn’t mean
that we have to be at the bottom, it doesn’t mean that
we have to be missing from school, it doesn’t mean that
we have to put up with rubbish, it doesn’t mean that we have to
expect ourselves to be on the ground, because that’s not about who we are. This is the challenge
I’m bringing to you at the moment. The attendance in the school
is getting better, but it’s still not good enough. We’d established
a high-expectations culture, and we had a school motto
that was ‘strong and smart’. So, at some level, you know,
they are just words, but at another level,
it lets me say to children individually, ‘Look, you can’t tell me
that you’re strong and smart – you’ve gotta be the words
that come out of your mouth as well.’ And that meant working harder
in the classroom, being respectful to teachers,
being respectful to each other, getting to school every day and being more respectful to ourselves
as human beings and as young Aboriginal men
and young Aboriginal women. And that included the staff. It was all about colluding with
this strong, smart, young, black and deadly
Aboriginal identity. Write that. Good sentence. You know, it’s not rocket science. We had kids turning up to school hungry
and couldn’t learn because of that. Well, just give them some toast
and juice or Milo in the morning. You know,
attendance was a really chronic issue. Well, let’s get out
and chase the parents up and find out where their kids are. Let’s offer rewards for those kids
who are coming to school. If kids are highly strung, get them to meditate for a couple
of minutes before every session. Who can remember
some of the spirits from this area? – Hand up. No calling out. Jayden?
BOY: Tall Man. – Tall Man.
BOY: Owl. – Owl.
BOY: Djangirri. Djangirri. What is it? BOYS: Mundagarra.
TEACHER: Mundagarra. By implementing an Aboriginal Studies
program here at the school, it was… we were able
to give Indigenous people a voice. The first concept we look at
is pre-Cherbourg, which looks at Aboriginal culture. Then we look at
government policies and practices. An example is looking at the Act, and different policies
that were put in place. They learned how to speak English,
so when they went out to work, they could speak English to their boss. They learned how to write,
so they could write letters to the superintendent for permission. We have artists from the community
come in, and they’re sharing their art, but they’re also teaching
techniques of Aboriginal art or Torres Strait Island art to children. We have a dance group at our school,
and they’re learning corroboree, they’re learning the dances
from the community. The Aboriginal Studies teacher
takes the children out. They might go down to the waterhole and might learn a Dreaming story
about that particular waterhole. And when I was a small boy,
I heard this story called Booyooburra. These rocks over here is very sacred
to the Wakka Wakka people. When we first came here,
you’d ask children questions, and they’d put their heads down in shame
and stuff. Now when they’re standing up there
and they’re being praised and rewarded, they’re proud to be standing up there, and we talk about being Aboriginal
and being proud of who you are. The reason
why Arthur’s won the Principal’s Award is because he always works very hard
in class, doesn’t he, Mrs Sarra? He’s always at school,
he’s always having a go. OK? So, a big, big cheer for Arthur
for being strong and smart. We’ve gotta give these kids
one place in their lives that has structure, that has
a positive kind of love and warmth where there is high expectations, where kids can predict
what’s gonna happen. You know, where they know
that if they act positively, there’s gonna be rewards for that, and if they act negatively,
there’s gonna be a consequence for that. So, it’s about controlling the things
that we do, and being excellent at that. Ladies and gentlemen, special guests… In fact, it’s nice to know that through the work
that we’ve done at the institute, trying to spread
this high-expectations agenda and this ‘stronger, smarter’ message, that, you know, there’s schools across
the country that are doing great things. And the plan is to get
more and more schools influenced by what they’re doing. So there’s a critical mass of schools doing great things
in Indigenous education to the extent that
that’s just the normal thing – you know, that’s just how it should be. OK. Upper school,
how many unexplained absen…? CHILD: Zero!
– Hoo-hoo. Well done, guys. Thanks very much. (Applause) That’s what I’m talking about
when I say strong and smart. We get the unexplained absences
down to zero, we make sure
we get the notes back if we’re away, we make sure that we’re at school and not staying at home
just because we feel slack. Alright? And, upper school,
thanks for being strong and smart. Creating better conditions in Aboriginal
communities is everybody’s business. If you’re a policeman
sent to a community, if you’re a health worker
working in a community or a teacher
working in an Aboriginal community. We’ve gotta purge any sort of mindset
that second-rate is somehow good enough, and when more people
stop accepting that, then hopefully we’ll see
the sort of change that we deserve. We know that if we provide
a strong cultural identity for Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander kids, we can reinforce
their pride and resilience. Their natural ability to use imagery,
creativity and imagination makes Music Outback a rich cultural
and educational experience for the kids in remote communities. (Children sing) Music and the arts
are a very important way of educating and telling stories
that are handed down over the aeons. (Children sing in Indigenous language) Often there might only be
a single teacher, 10-15 kids in the school
at some of the remote communities and it’s rare
that those teachers have… skills
or the broad set of skills that most of our kids grow up
having great access to. We’re able to bring in
highly-skilled musician-educators, and so that sort of personality
has something about it that actually fits well out there
in the bush, engaging kids in really fun,
creative processes that give them a forum
for telling their own stories and developing their own sort
of cultural expression as well. (Children laughing) We tend to go back to schools
every school term for an intensive period of time – you know, a week or two weeks
every term – with the same people. Doom-doom! Ah! ALL: Doom-doom! Ah!
(Laughter) Doong-doong-doong! Whoo! ALL: Doong-doong-doong! Whoo!
(Laughter) The first thing that happens
is some very fun, physical warm-ups, which the kids absolutely love and all our teachers
tend to use the same methods and techniques with their own
little variations thrown in. So, it’s a way to immediately
get the kids engaged, and it’s fun, it’s different to
what normally goes on in the classroom. I was thinking if we could write two
more verses, it would be really good. Songwriting really is
the core of the program and writing songs
that come from these kids and that tell the stories
of these kids’ lives. They’re speaking the local language –
they’re local people. We’re able to work with
the Indigenous teachers there, and actually write songs in language
about issues with the kids, things that the kids love,
and family, hunting. (Man speaks in Indigenous language) MAN: The men hunt emu and bush turkey.
The women collect honey ants. We can build on current best practice
to turn stories into songs and learn about words and language
in the meanwhile. ALL: ♪ Open plains of Africa ♪ Wildebeest, ah, wildebeest. ♪ What I wanna do is count the syllables
in this line. You know what syllables are? CHILDREN: Three!
– Thank you… We find the rhythm in the verse, we help them find melodies
that can fit those rhythms and in the end, we’ve got a song. CHILDREN: Four.
– Plus three more. CHILDREN: Six. Seven. With songs, once they’re written,
we can write literacy activity sheets
based on the content of those songs. Word games that use the words
that were written into the songs, so that kids know the songs and they’re
immediately engaging with the material. ♪ Every morning
we scrub our teeth ♪ Every morning
we blow our noses ♪ Every morning we roll our tissues
into spears to clean our ears. ♪ Having a means of communicating
health issues in the first place is extremely important, so we would
write songs exactly about that. ♪ We wash our hands with soap and water ♪ Remember to turn the tap off. ♪ So, when there’s a repertoire of songs
that are built up, after that warm-up, the kids, they’re calling out,
‘Sing Family Song, Bush Sports,’ and we could sit there for an hour
just singing the songs. ALL: ♪ Boom-boom cha
Boom-boom cha ♪ A-boom-boom cha. ♪ We’ve had record numbers of kids
attending school during our music weeks, so the challenge then is to extend that
into the weeks beyond visits, and that’s why
when we are at the schools, we’re always recording the material
that is written with the kids. They’re making their own CDs, we can develop activity sheets
based on the songs that teachers
who might not have music skills can use with the CDs
during the periods in between. (Speaks in Indigenous language) Neutral Junction Station
is about 300km north of Alice Springs, and there’s a small community there
called Tara where the Kaytetye language is spoken. And Kaytetye is unfortunately
a very threatened language that’s really,
literally about to fall off the edge with only about 200-250 adults
still speaking it on a daily basis. So, at Tara, we’ll go out with Tommy
and he’ll share some of his ancient traditional stories in language
with us and with the kids, we’ll film it and then work
with community women and a linguist to turn those stories into songs
that the kids can learn and sing. Again, always in Katyetye. (Speaks in Indigenous language) (Recorded singing in background) First time I played that to Tommy, he was just absolutely over the moon
about it. (Chuckles) Places where we’ve been going
for many years, we get there, the Indigenous teachers
sort of bail us up saying, ‘Look, we’ve got these words
for this song that we’ve written in Warlpiri, then here’s the Anmatyerre one and then we wanna do a health song
as well…’ And they’ve already
got the ball rolling there, and the kids are raring to go as well, especially when
they contribute their ideas. ♪ ELECTRIC GUITAR Most of the schools that we work with
have musical instruments now, and kids,
they’re playing when we’re not there, and developing skills. I think it’s actually the great untapped
career path for remote Indigenous kids is to become music educators. Do it like this. Get a nice sound.
(Tapping on plastic bottles) We like to use
whatever resources are at hand. For instance, with soft drink bottles, if you put a tyre valve in the cap
and pump them up with air, they all actually form different pitches
as the bottle tightens with the air. It’s an instrument
that you can make cheaply, but a beautiful sound
when you hit it with a stick. (Kids chuckle) We have noticed that kids coming
to school for the first time, they’ll come to the school
and not be able to speak English, and yet these kids
are already singing the songs that we will have written
with their older brothers and sisters. They’ll come into school
singing songs in English before they can even
speak the language. ALL: ♪ This is my father
This is my mother ♪ This is my sister
This is my brother. ♪ The first time
we released the Ti Tree CD, for instance, every child got one in their Christmas stocking
at the end of the year and I heard independent reports
that for months afterwards, that music was just blasting
out of every house in Ti Tree. Even though it was all kids’ songs,
everyone was listening to it. ♪ We’ll be singing in Ti Tree
Singing We’ll be singing… ♪ We certainly have very happy faces,
very powerful-looking kids who are just really looking forward to what we’re
doing and have a great time doing it. ♪ GUITAR (Speaks indistinctly) Sad part of the song! (Tapping on plastic bottles) (Speaks indistinctly)
(Laughter) Those kids were real deadly, eh? No wonder they turn up for school
the next day. Now, providing the kids
with positive role models, encouraging them to have pride
in their culture, nurturing and educating them
in a safe and supportive way – this is how we can help them stay strong and get them safely through
to the next phase in their lives. Now, don’t forget to visit our website
for more information. ♪ RAP MUSIC ♪ You’re strong and deadly
You ain’t gonna stop ♪ You’re strong and deadly
You ain’t gonna beat me ♪ You’re strong and deadly
You ain’t gonna stop ♪ You’re strong and deadly
You ain’t gonna beat me ♪ Deadly ♪ Dead-deadly ♪ Deadly ♪ Dead-deadly ♪ One beat here, another beat there ♪ Real cool beats, we don’t swear ♪ One beat here, another beat there ♪ Real cool beats, we don’t swear ♪ We are deadly, real proud men ♪ We are deadly, real proud men ♪ Deadly ♪ Deadly ♪ Deadly ♪ Dead-deadly. ♪

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