video source: Behind the News, 28th June 2016
Indigenous opera singer Deborah Cheetham is the founder and director of Short Black Opera, a performance group for Aboriginal adults and children alike. She and her team take her regional engagement program ‘Short Black Opera for Kids’ to different locations around Australia for one week of instruction and a final performance, an opportunity to audition for the Melbourne-based extension program Dhungala Choral Connection, audition for Short Black Opera training for those exceptionally talented and over 16 years of age, and one whole-community participation workshop for the township involved. Importantly, children have the chance to co-write a song with Deborah in their local language(s), and learn about different languages they don’t speak from the other children attending the program.
The video above includes footage of workshops from various locations, a performance featuring children selected from those locations held in Melbourne with guest Archie Roach, and interviews with the kids expressing what the program means to them.
In May the program travelled to the Pilbara region in northern WA. Here are some select quotes from the ABC media coverage that exemplify Deborah’s vision for the importance of language and expression in the empowerment of Aboriginal youth:
“There are great demands that we place on our children in terms of learning and knowledge acquisition. It’s all about reading, it’s all about writing and memorising and NAPLAN and whatever else and yet, our way of knowing, our way of giving meaning to everything in the world is through the visual and the performing arts.
If a child going off to school for the very first day was greeted in the language of the local area, when the little charts they put up on the wall to teach them the alphabet could be words in their own language, the teacher could value and acknowledge the culture that lies within that child. When that child steps into the classroom for the first time, the child will feel so valued.
There’d be much less chance of that child disengaging from the learning process, because they’d see themselves and the value of their own culture reflected back. They’d feel a belonging, which is currently, I feel still lacking for most Indigenous children.”
The next workshop and free-to-attend final public performance is in Benalla, on October 28th 2016: event information.
- Short Black Opera contact details: Deborah’s Cheetham’s website
- Short Black Opera Facebook page
- full interview:
video source: ABC online
-Elizabeth Ellis, LING366 student