Dance program connects kids back to culture

Cultural connection: Avon Community Services Indigenous dance program participants at the Shire of Northam NAIDOC celebrations in July. Photo: Shire of Northam.
Cultural connection: Avon Community Services Indigenous dance program participants at the Shire of Northam NAIDOC celebrations in July. Photo: Shire of Northam.

An after-hours Indigenous dance program facilitated by local elders is reconnecting Northam's young males to their culture.

The traditional dance program, run by Avon Community Services, previously known as Avon Youth, has been extended from its original timeline due to the positive outcomes and response from participants.

Avon Community Services youth worker Tricia Chrimes said the program had been driven by the boys aged 11 to 15, who had shown an interest in learning more about their culture.

"At the time we were starting the new program NAIDOC week was coming and the kids decided they wanted to be part of the celebrations," she said.

"We decided to do traditional dance and got the elders in to teach the young boys how to dance, which they loved."

Ms Chrimes said there was a strong group of 15 boys who took part in the program, with many of those sharing what they had learned at the Shire of Northam's NAIDOC Week events.

She said the program was not just about dancing skills.

"The core group of young fellas who are coming in now all have leaderships qualities," Ms Chrimes said.

"They all have that passion and despite having trauma in their everyday lives.

"It's not just dancing they are learning - it is the cultural side of things, their self worth, how to work as a team, all put together as a six-week program.

"They've really taken ownership - this is their place, they have made it theirs."

Avon Community Services operations manager Darren Warland said the success of the traditional dance program came off the back of a Noongar language program held at the centre.

"The Noongar language program sparked the interest and re-connection with the culture," he said.

"Connection to community and country is a main key performance indicator for us so it is something we want to continue through future programs.

"More to that, this is something these young people want.

"For me, there has been an understanding that if these programs are delivered by the right people it is going to help these kids identify with themselves so much better."

Mr Warland said as a result of the group's involvement in the Northam NAIDOC celebrations, the boys in the program had since been invited to perform at the opening of Woolworths in Midland and at Northam TAFE.

He said the outcomes of the public performances have been beneficial to the young men.

"It is a great opportunity for these young guys to display what they have learnt but also take pride in who they are and what their culture is," he said.

"The guys who have been involved in the performances have had absolute pride in what they're doing."