Reconciliation Stories - Ngarrindjeri Kaikulun Rrugiyan

As I was going through archived material in order to write the third in this series, it leapt out at me already written. The following story appeared in the Murray Bridge North School Newsletter in May of 2013. I am very pleased to say that the choir mentioned below is still going strong.


“I was so proud.

Last Friday our Nunga Choir, Ngarrindjeri Kaikulun Rrugiyan (Ngarrindjeri Singing and Dancing), performed at Tandanya as a support act for Archie Roach at the launch of Ruby Hunter’s book of songs and stories.


Our young performers stepped up to another level at this event. They were great before - but at Tandanya, they were awesome. Ngarrindjeri Kaikulun Rrugiyan is a very important component of our performing arts program.


In discussions about this program I refer to the three E’s, Engagement, Enrichment and Excellence. Engagement was the founding E. The program was started in 2002 in order to encourage some of the disengaged students to want to come to school. The concept has developed in cooperation with leadership and staff and has evolved massively since. One of the keys in the development of the program is the mutual responsibility aspect of it. That requires recognition by the students that in return for participation in the program they are required cooperate fully and respect the learning of others, both in the engagement activity and in their home class.

Enrichment was a word introduced into the concept of the program very early on when it became apparent that many students, not just those who were disengaged but also those who had a strong connection with learning, wanted to participate. The activities were then regarded as engaging students and enriching the overall learning programs of all students. More time was allocated to the program that at this time was confined to the Primary School. In 2007 the Junior Primary became involved on the recommendation of the review process that our schools undertook in 2006.


As the years progressed, a culture of arts learning has developed to such and extent that one of the key initial goals of the program has been achieved in a growing number of the activities provided. That goal was to achieve excellence. We aimed for such a high standard of performance that the participants’ self esteem and status in the school community was significantly enhanced through their involvement.


What I witnessed on Friday night was that, under the loving guidance of Lynne Graham and with support from other staff and parents, our Nunga Choir stepped up to this level of performance excellence. In their previous performance, at the Station for the Headspace 10th anniversary, they were strong, proud, engaged, entertaining and they sang beautifully. There is a subtle thing in performance where the performer needs to be deeply inside themselves and giving out at the same time. This extra level is what I saw on Friday night at Tandanya and I was so proud.


I acknowledge the role of Les Cameron (Senior Leader) in the formation of our Nunga Choir. As the Junior Primary Education teacher Les was engaged in gathering language and songs from the Ngarrindjeri Elders and was writing songs in language herself. I joined her in developing performance material and together we formed the choir, Ngarrindjeri Kaikulun Rrugiyan in 2008. A CD of songs was produced, again an initiative of Les, who was there on Friday and also bursting with pride. Our Nunga Choir has been embraced by the broader Ngarrindjeri community as an important contributor to Ngarrindjeri cultural life. They will perform at the deadly awards later in the year and will, I am sure, be asked to represent our school often in the future.


Lynne Graham and Kellie Owen have organised at least one possibly two cultural exchanges with other school communities this year and are planning for many more such visits in the future. Lynne’s passion is driving the choir now. They looked fantastic in their special tops and the new songs that Lynne has generated are a feature of the show. They complement the original songs so well. Be proud with me because our Nunga Choir has a great future and it is there because we have all supported the concept.”