National News

Creating new connections to traditional Australian culture

Thursday 10 March 2016

This year Project Compassion marks its 50th anniversary and the theme ‘Learning more, creating change’, celebrates the power of learning, and the many ways in which Caritas Australia is working with local partners around the world to provide vital learning and renewed hope to those most marginalised.

Like many remote First Australian communities, Beswick faces a range of complex ongoing challenges. Many people in the town feel disempowered by poorly conceived policies and decisions. A lack of meaningful opportunities means that a lot of families struggle with financial hardship.

In the community of just 450 people, education is accessible but finishing school doesn’t always feel possible.

Evangeline (25) is a proud young (Ramingining) woman living in the small remote community. When she left high school she had a limited vision for her future. But the training Evangeline has received while working for Djilpin Arts has helped her develop new skills and ignited her passion for the maintenance and preservation of her Aboriginal culture. 

Evangeline completed Year 11, but even though she liked school, she didn’t consider doing Year 12. ‘Everyone at Beswick doesn’t finish high school,’ she says. ‘I didn’t really think about doing more education at the time.’

After high school Evangeline tried a few career options, but soon felt dispirited. She recalls ‘by the time I was 22, I really started to think about doing something positive with my life.’

With this in mind Evangeline approached Djilpin Arts to work at the Ghunmarn Culture Centre and became involved in the Caritas-supported program when a short-term maternity contract became available. The management at the Centre quickly recognised Evangeline’s potential and within months she was offered a full-time role as an Artsworker.

At Djilpin Arts’ Ghunmarn Culture Centre, the aim is to bring together Elders and young people, like Evangeline, so new generations can learn traditional skills and enhance their cultural knowledge while also learning contemporary skills such as business management, sales and marketing.

The program involves drawing upon traditional practices and stories as well as business skills to develop social enterprises that generate income and keep culture strong. This is done using many mediums including art, storytelling, dance and song. Through these enterprises Evangeline and the other arts workers and program participants also share their culture throughout Australia.

Since joining the Djilpin Arts Ghunmarn Culture Centre, Evangeline has truly flourished. She’s undertaken many training programs in the past three years, and was the youngest Artsworker ever to be accepted into the ANKAAA Arts Workers Extension Program.

‘This opportunity has helped me turn my life into something more positive,’ she says. ‘It makes me more confident and more independent.’

In her newest role as Senior Artsworker, Evangeline is committed to helping her community remain connected to their culture. ‘If I share my knowledge back at Beswick, other young people might get interested in working and keeping culture,’ Evangeline explains. ‘Culture is our identity and how we understand ourselves. It’s important for us young people to be able to learn these skills and then we can pass them on when we are old.’

With the support of Caritas Australia, Evangeline and her community are gaining the skills and desire to preserve traditional culture, and encourage a new phase of arts and cultural expression. Or, as Evangeline simply says: ‘You are helping us to keep our culture alive.’

Please donate to Project Compassion 2016 and help First Australians in remote communities of Australia gain new skills and renewed passion to preserve and celebrate traditional culture.

Photos: Danielle Lyons/Caritas Australia


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