Creative learning: the Brolga brought the people

It’s not often that a “school play” attracts five times the school’s population.
But Moree East Public School, a 128-student school in northwest NSW, drew a crowd of 600 for the Festival of the Brolga in the first week of December.
To be fair, it wasn’t any old school play: it was a two-day festival celebrating and showcasing the children’s year-long learning through the arts and culture of the local Aboriginal community, which culminated in an evening show at the school’s hall. It was quality theatre created by renowned national community arts company Beyond Empathy, with its 3Moree project in collaboration with Moree East Public School.
The Festival of the Brolga galvanised the community around the school – as was the plan – as part of the NSW Government’s Connected Communities strategy, forged between the Department of Education and Aboriginal Education Consultative Group (AECG) as part of Aboriginal Affairs’ OCHRE plan.

ABOVE: The eight-person Brolga puppet preparing for action in the school playground.
“I wholeheartedly believe that the connected communities strategy is the solution for improving education outcomes for Aboriginal children, and building relationships across the community, which sits at its heart,” BE executive director Kim McConville said.
Producing high-end art and theatre inspires a community, Kim explained, and leaves people wanting more, propelling them forward with a vision of what is possible. It is a strategy called “playing it forward”.
“Setting a bar high like that actually means you can lift up the spirit of the community,” she said.
And just after 7pm on Friday December 5, the Brolga began lifting. The 3.5-metre tall bird emerged from the darkening evening, towering over the stage. It was stunning; a collaborative sculpture built by the community from discarded bamboo, muslin and old tyre inner tubes over 10 full days.