Our shared stories: celebrating together

Our shared stories: celebrating together
Rebecca Smith

Cultural Diversity Week was celebrated a little late at our house this year, but it was worth the wait!

On Tuesday, March 26, Kensington Neighbourhood House and the Kensington Reconciliation Action Group ran a beautiful community event celebrating dance in culture.

Given the 2024 Cultural Diversity Week theme was “Our Shared Stories – Celebrating Together”, we decided to focus on dance as a common language. Dance is a beautiful form of communication, a way to preserve culture and a means of storytelling. Each year we welcome participants from more than 60 different countries so we had no shortage of tales to tell and dance moves to try.

We started with a session on sharing dance stories. We invited students from our English Language class along with students from North Melbourne Language and Learning to share information and stories about dance in their own cultures. Naturally, this led to some impromptu dance performances in the classroom!

We then headed outside to join up with parents, grandparents and children from playgroup, along with more KNH students and other community members to welcome Mandy and Kiera from Djirri Djirri.

Djirri Djirri are the only Wurundjeri female dance group, and are Traditional Custodians of Narrm (Melbourne) and surrounds. Djirri Djirri means Willy Wagtail in Woiwurrung. Mandy and Kiera shared stories about the meaning of dance in Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung culture, personal stories of their families and their own journeys to connect with their culture.

They then ran a “ngarra” (dance) workshop for everyone – learning the moves as we went along. It was very special to see every single person joining in, from little three-year-olds to one senior community member who pushed aside her walking frame in order to master the Willy Wagtail dance! Together we stepped, stamped, swayed, and twirled in an admittedly uncoordinated, but very joyful, celebration of community.

For many it was their first introduction to Wurundjeri culture. As one participant put it: “I was born here and in 67 years, this is the first time I’ve had the chance to learn about First Nations culture. We weren’t taught anything about this in school. I found it very humbling.”

The Kensington Reconciliation Action Group will be hosting another event with Djirri Djirri later in the year. You can contact Esther on 9376 6366 if you are interested in learning more. •

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