We spoke with Simone Reilly, Head of Malvern Campus at Caulfield Grammar School, about her recent Aboriginal Art Workshop.

Why did you choose to run the Aboriginal Art program at the school and what was the purpose of the experience?

The purpose was to commence the start of our school year as a staff with a shared experience that would benefit both the staff’s sense of community and student learning.

It was important that the experience wasn’t tokenistic or a ‘flash in the pan’ but instead an experience we could reference continually throughout the year.

We chose to run the Aboriginal Art program for two reasons: firstly, I wanted to focus on and celebrate the culture of storytelling.  Looking through the lens of our Indigenous cultures was the perfect partnership.

Secondly, I wanted to use a mode of expression that many of us, other than our Visual Art teacher, were less comfortable or familiar with.

In previous years, we have participated in some team building experiences which were more physical in nature so it was important for me to reflect our expectations of the classroom and ensure that we experienced feeling out of our comfort zone and expressing ourselves in ways which wouldn’t necessarily be our preferred.

In saying that though, the stories and art work shared at the end by staff were so moving and beautiful that I think we may have ignited a new passion in a few staff!

How do you think the program addresses inclusivity?

I think the program addressed inclusivity from the very beginning. The respectful conversations we had with Sam in the office which helped us frame our thinking around purpose which set us up well for the workshop.

Will was able to introduce the workshop that helped our staff feel connected to the objective while living within our school values.

And then Sandon guiding us through his outstanding art, the broader meaning and history of his piece and how it links to his story and his background.

Once we were creating our own stories through art, there was a great sense of inclusivity, comfort and optimism in the room. The whole program felt like a perfect blend of creativity, reflection, introspection and fun!

How important is storytelling for young people / staff members?

Storytelling is at the heart of education and society in general. Understanding the ‘why’ behind everything we are teaching or learning, providing context and connecting to real world examples is essential if we want our students to be invested in and connect to, their own learning.

I love all forms of stories; the stories behind song lyrics; the back stories of people; the stories behind art; you just feel so much more connected once you understand where an idea came from.

Aboriginal Art is available for students or staff as a 90-min workshop designed to encourage people to explore their own story, through the introductory themes of modern Indigenous art.

Aboriginal Art workshop