Bawurra Foundation helping Indigenous students at Taree Public School engage with education

Bawurra Foundation visit: Monique Shipp (CEO), Jesse Slok (co-founder and chairman) and Alexander Stonyer-Dubinovsky (co-founder and director) at their 2017 visit to Taree Public School. Photo: submitted
Bawurra Foundation visit: Monique Shipp (CEO), Jesse Slok (co-founder and chairman) and Alexander Stonyer-Dubinovsky (co-founder and director) at their 2017 visit to Taree Public School. Photo: submitted

Indigenous and non-Indigenous students at Taree Public School have been given a unique gift of  a partnership that is currently only being given to four other schools across NSW. 

Sydney non-profit organisation, the Bawurra Foundation is working with the school and the wider Indigenous community to preserve local Biripi culture and stories for the benefit of young Indigenous and non-indigenous people alike.

Members of the foundation will be visiting Taree Public School on for a community day on Wednesday, September 19 to hand over new tablets to replace the older ones Bawurra had already supplied the school with. On these tablets is the Buwarra library – a collection of information on Elders, dreaming stories, history, languages, nations and events.

“This information is shared with schools so the next generation of Elders are able to engage with cultural content from their own community,” Bawurra Foundation co-founder and Gamilaraay man, Jesse Slok said.

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“We’re inviting in Elders and other community members to share their story and preserve the knowledge of the area and giving them the opportunity to sit down and record their story, their journey, any information that they might have, some history and showing them that the information is immediately transcribed and in the hands of the next generation within the school.”

It’s the second time Bawurra has visited the school. At the end of last year, they had what Jesse called a “very good rounded trip”.

“Last time we were in Taree we met with Karen Bradley, a lovely lady who works at the school, and she’s an absolute superstar,” Jesse said.

“She helped organise the community day that we had on our last visit where we were able to sit down with a few of the community members, help them preserve their stories, we had footage taken, and some recording.

“We travelled out to Saltwater with Uncle David Russell who was able to tell us a bit more about the connection to land and the importance of Saltwater and the valuable meaning that it has for the community in Taree and also in Purfleet.

Our ultimate goal is to share our content with ALL Australian students, to help upskill non-Indigenous students around Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history and culture, as it’s not just Indigenous Australia’s history, it’s Australia’s history.

Jesse Slok

“We were taken out to Purfleet and shown around and had a good discussion on the history of Purfleet, discussed with the medical centre and the Aboriginal Lands Council the importance of the engagement that they have with the community.

Bawurra was co-founded in 2015 by a group of university students and young professionals with the aim of having Indigenous students share their stories with others across Australia.

However the idea morphed into its current form of helping engage Indigenous students at 15 NSW schools identified by the NSW government’s Connecting Communities initiative as having a high Indigenous population that is at risk of disengagement with education.

“Slowly but surely the idea evolved and snowballed into what we have today - a mechanism and a technological platform for preservation and sharing of Indigenous culture, languages, history, arts and dance and it’s a platform that we can share with all of Australia,” Jesse said. 

Bawurra Foundation co-founder Jesse Stok with Taree Public School students in 2017,when he gifted them with Kindles loaded with a library of local Inidigenous information and stories. Photo: submitted

Bawurra Foundation co-founder Jesse Stok with Taree Public School students in 2017,when he gifted them with Kindles loaded with a library of local Inidigenous information and stories. Photo: submitted

“All Australians have access now to a resource that teaches them about Indigenous Australia and also provides a great engagement tool for those Indigenous students who are disengaging with the education system and have fallen through the cracks, providing them with content that they want to learn about around culture and their community, around their Elders and their Aunties and Uncles, and providing them with education.

“Our ultimate goal is to share our content with ALL Australian students, to help upskill non-Indigenous students around Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history and culture, as it’s not just Indigenous Australia’s history, it’s Australia’s history,” Jesse said.

For more information on the project visit www.bawurra.org.