First Nations teenagers from across the region are sharing their passion and culture through dance at the region’s major events, including the upcoming Milbi Festival.
The River Nations Dancers group is made up of 27 Indigenous students from three state high schools in the Bundaberg Region, aged between 13 and 17 years.
The dance group was recently formed after Bundaberg Regional Council approached River Nations Indigenous Corporation to utilise the talented youth to create an Indigenous cultural experience for tourism and events.
River Nations Indigenous Corporation CEO Norelle Watson said the concept had been discussed with local Indigenous Elders and there was great support behind the project.
“The River Nations team met with local Indigenous Elders at a Bundaberg Regional Council Elders Yarning Circle to pay respect, acknowledge and inform Elders of the project's objectives and expected outcomes,” Norelle said.
“Local Indigenous Elders and community members were invited to each of the Indigenous Mentoring sessions to share their storylines, song lines and lived experiences with the students who participated in the program.”
The young dancers have thrived and, with that knowledge passed down from Indigenous Elders, have fostered their love for their culture and sharing it with the community.
“Each student dances with a deep pride in their Indigenous heritage that has shone through in a number of events since the group’s formation,” Norelle said.
“The students represent their schools with dignity and pride, displaying a deep sense of culture in each of the presentations in the public arena.”
Norelle encouraged residents to participate in Milbi Festival 2021 events for the opportunity to see the River Nations Dancers in action.
“Each student’s commitment and consistency throughout each presentation is a joy to watch,” she said.
“Twenty-seven students are involved in the program, representing their families, school and community in a culturally inclusive and spiritually strong presentation at each event they perform.
“The Indigenous Elders of our community are proud of the way the students conduct themselves and they are capturing everyone’s hearts and attention
with every performance.
“The students dance with purpose and passion, sharing the traditional songlines of their ancestors.
“Most importantly, they have fun, they are totally immersed in their culture and walk away from each performance, steeped in the knowledge of who they are and where they come from.”
The River Nations team engaged a range of stakeholders in the mentoring program which Norelle said had contributed to the success of the program.
From Elders, mentors, dance teachers and community members to Council and local high schools, she said the River Nations Dancers could not have been the success they have become without this support.
The troupe has performed at a range of local events since coming together including the State of Origin Maroons Fan Day at the Multiplex, the Taste
Bundaberg Festival Indigenous Elders Dining Event and Indigenous Dining Experience held on Mon Repos Beach.
More recently the students performed at the Wide Bay Hospital Health Service Annual NAIDOC event at the Healing Garden.
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