Clash of cultures embraced

A CROSS-cultural course where Sudanese, Thai, Vietnamese and Greek students learn indigenous artwork and culture will continue following the success of its pilot program.

For the past 10 weeks, the Bnym Aboriginal Corporation has welcomed about 20 students to learn the art of indigenous ceramic production and wood burning.

It is a first for Bnym chief executive Sam Walker Wilson, who said it was her dream to share the artistic heritage of Latrobe Valley’s indigenous community with people from other cultures.

“I pictured more of an art exchange, which it actually didn’t turn out to be,” Ms Walker Wilson said.

“Instead it turned out to be something so much better.”

Ms Walker Wilson joined Federation Training teachers Robyn Stanton-Long and Fay Lake to provide an adult foundation skills course, which included an introduction to small business.

From written English work, creating a ceramic piece from scratch and processing orders, Ms Walker Wilson said the students’ transformation was incredible.

The course’s aim was to allow the local indigenous community to better understand diverse cultures while teaching students about Koorie heritage.

“But also to give them a taste of what’s on their doorstep in Morwell,” Ms Stanton-Long said.

“They’ve actually become really curious as to what it means to be a local Koorie.

“They’ve found they’re not that dissimilar when it comes to indigenous peoples; they’re sharing a similar history.

“They have also discovered art is not just for the wealthy.”

Sudanese student Huda said she felt happy now she had graduated, having learnt new skills and also indigenous culture.

“I’ve finished the course, now I go to find a job helping me with money,” Huda said.

“Now, I learn more (because) if I learn more, it’ll be good for me.”

A memorandum of understanding between Bynm and Federation Training is in the pipeline, with another group of students to take the course next semester.

Federation Training foundation education manager Mark Shelton said there was scope to establish a permanent program for future students.

“We are looking to build partnerships with Learn Locals throughout Gippsland and Latrobe Valley to try and work together to create pathways for the students,” Mr Shelton said.

“From pre-accredited training through to our TAFE certificates, it’s something we’re trying to do all over the place.

“This has just been an amazing example of how it can all work so well.”