In 2016 the Girls From Oz (G-Oz) project “Our Song” was chosen by 100 Women members to receive one of the 3 grants awarded that year. In December 2017, as many members will remember we were treated to a fabulous performance by the G-Oz girls at our Gala celebration. We can now formally declare this grant to be fully expended and would like to share some of the highlights, surprises, and firsthand feedback about this project.
Despite public performance being a major hurdle for many of these young girls, 28 highly confident young performers presented six songs (including “I am Australian” in language) and two dances at G-Oz’s first public performance in Halls Creek. Four girls introduced items using speaking parts they wrote themselves. Family and friends were there to listen and congratulate the girls afterwards, these were some of the comments from the girls the day after their performance.
“My name is Chloe and I love G-Oz because we get to learn new dances and songs and when I did the performance my mum, my dad and my two little brothers came to watch me. And after that performance my dad said that he was so proud of me that I did it”
“Hi my name is Tahlia and I like Girls from Oz because they’re nice and caring. I like G-Oz because they teach us lots of dances, like the “unique” dance that we performed yesterday. My mum said that she was really proud of all of the girls that did it”.
“Hi my name is Tahnee and I love G-Oz because yesterday’s performance was awesome”
“Hi my name is Heidi, I love G-Oz because I felt proud when we done the performance yesterday”
“Hi, my name is Shondean and I love G-Oz because they are helpful and we learn songs from them and dance a lot with them. I felt proud of the performance yesterday. I felt like embarrassing then I felt proud of myself and the performance”
“My name is Emma and I like G-Oz because, they teach us the “Unique” dance and we got to perform all the songs and dances yesterday. And the best part of it was “Unique” because we only learnt it this week and we got it right”.
What wonderful feedback from the girls, however it is not just the girls from Halls Creek that benefited from the “Our Song” project. 295 participants from Halls Creek District High School and Little Nuggets Early Learning Centre were involved in 104 workshops. 300 people saw the girls perform in Halls Creek and 500 people met some of the girls in Perth and heard them sing in language, including the Governor of WA.
School attendance improved. Confidence in performing in front of people improved and importantly they learnt that if they can perform in front of their own community, they can perform anywhere. G-Oz wrote “Right up until 3 pm on the day of the performance, we didn’t know how many girls would make it from the school to the stage (500 metres). Tears of pride from some of the audience members and parents followed and accolades and congratulations were received from teachers, Aboriginal and Islander Education Officers, and the general community”
Learning the traditional Jaru and Kija language is important for these young girls. To quote one participant when asked “why is your language important to you?” she replied “so you could keep speaking your language fluently because the population is running out”. However, In the first half of the twentieth century aboriginal people were punished if they spoke their traditional language and thus understandably some elders can be wary of sharing with whitefellas.
Despite this, in 2016 G-Oz worked with women from the Kimberley Language Resource Centre in translating “I Am Australian” into Jaru and Kija. Then in 2017 singer/songwriter Peter Brandy agreed for part of his contemporary song “Kimberley Backroads” to be translated by women from the language centre into Jaru and Kija. To the delight of G-Oz, the women from the language centre also agreed to teach the girls at Halls Creek District High School, the first time they have agreed to work on the school grounds in the nine years that G-Oz has been working in Halls Creek.
As for the future, this year G-Oz will run four week-long performing arts intensives in Halls Creek. In November ten girls will travel to Melbourne and meet up with G-Oz participants from Carnarvon and Lockhart River, the first time the girls from all three towns G-Oz works with will have been brought together. “Our Song” has enabled G-Oz to strengthen relationships with Halls Creek community members and G-Oz plans to meet with the local women and discuss which songs they should next translate and learn.
The “Our Song” project is yet another great example of how collective giving can impact the lives of so many. Thank you to 100 Women members for supporting this fabulous project. Thank you to Girls from Oz for sharing your success with us especially through your performance at our Gala event last year. If you wish to be a to be a catalyst for positive change then check out the 100 Women website and what it means to be a member.