More than 1,600 people gathered at Wesley College last week to celebrate the strength of our Indigenous culture here in Perth.
Wesley College is extremely proud of our Indigenous students. When they’re not busy stretching themselves academically, they stretch themselves physically, moving their bodies to tell their cultural stories through dance.
The students regularly perform these dances around the state, to schools and other groups, but on Sunday things went up a level with a special event: Moorditj by Moonlight.
Many readers will recognise the word moorditj. In Noongar it means strong.
It’s the word that our first Indigenous students turned to when they elected to create the Moorditj Mob, Wesley College’s indigenous program, giving them a unique opportunity to educate others about their culture and perform dances as a group.
However, on this day the word wasn’t designed to echo their name, it was designed to echo the sentiment that the Indigenous culture is secure and powerful in the hands of the next generation.
The afternoon began in brilliant sunshine with the College gates opening to a stream of families from the surrounding community. Person after person flooding into Ward Oval with chairs, picnic blankets and Esky’s full of treats.
As the parents hurried to nab a good spot the children headed straight to the stalls. Even from across the oval they could see the chance to have their face painted or blow a didgeridoo. Closer inspection offered up more activities – paint a boomerang, make a friendship bracelet, decorate a pebble, colour a picture.
Adults perused the stall of clothes and jewellery infused with the flavour and colours of Indigenous culture. A crowd gathered to watch acclaimed painter, Nerolie Bynder, create a piece of art live, with a helping hand from anyone who wanted to be involved.
Soon, with the sun starting to dip in the sky, a hush descended as a crowd of 1,600 people observed a Welcome to Country and Smoking Ceremony presented by Professor Simon Forest, WA’s longest-serving Aboriginal academic.
It’s always a pleasure to acknowledge the original owners of this land, but with shadows long on the ground and smoke scenting the air all around, the words felt more significant than ever. It was a solemn moment of reflection, much appreciated by the audience, then popped with a smile by playful host, Olman Walley and his declaration: ‘Are we ready to party?’
Of course we were!
And what a party it turned into. Wesley’s Moorditj Mob performing on a giant sand mural alongside more than 80 Indigenous students from Perth Ladies College (PLC), Guildford Grammar School, and St Catherine’s, UWA, working together to bring their cultural stories to life.
The crowd sang along to I Am We Are Australian by the Yabu Band, tapped their feet to the didgeridoo ensemble, and cheered as the dancers showed off their best moves in the celebration dance, the Nyumbi.
Then it was done. An hour of joyful expression finished in what felt like minutes. As one we clapped.
In the words of one visitor: “To see young Indigenous people so loud and proud was heartwarming. The thread of culture has been interrupted but if the night was anything to go by, those wonderful young people will weave it back together. It is our duty to help them with that in any way we can.”
We couldn’t agree more.
About Wesley’s Moorditj Mob
- Over 100 Indigenous students have participated in Wesley College’s Moorditj by Moonlight program
- Each year the Moorditj Mob performs on more than 100 occasions, to more than 25,000 Western Australian students.
- Students travel internationally too, to talk about their lives and what Indigenous culture means to them, and to Australia, in the modern day.
- The program is designed to provide an authentic and informative cultural experience for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students.
- Wesley students have gone on to become apprentices, AFL footballers, FIFO workers and many have gone on to university.
To learn more about our Moorditj Mob, click here.
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