A powerful first Aboriginal Studies exhibition

IGS recently welcomed Aboriginal mentors, other VIPs, families, staff and students to the School’s inaugural Aboriginal Studies exhibition, held in the new Design Centre.

Among the major works on display was a portrait of the late Tane Chatfield, 22, who died in custody late last year.

Year 12 student Sita had contacted Tane’s mother, Nioka, through Facebook to seek permission to paint his portrait – her artistic response to a confronting issue.

Nioka and her family travelled from Armidale to meet Sita and see the portrait for the first time at the exhibition. The emotional meeting was captured by National Indigenous TV (NITV) reporter Liz Deep-Jones, who interviewed Sita, Sita’s mother, Nioka and 2018 Head Girl Mi-kaisha Masella.

“It’s time for a generational change,” Mi-kaisha said. “It’s time we worked together and stop pointing out differences, and see we are all here for the same thing, to come together and fight for each other’s rights.”

Nioka and her family graciously congratulated Sita on her skill, wishing her every success in her HSC and the future.

“Being able to come down and touch something so real is a great experience,” Nioka said, thanking IGS and Sita.

“For somebody to actually know my name and find me on Facebook! Make a noise for Tane, I say. It’s amazing.”

IGS Aboriginal Studies Exhibition 2018
Sita (right) and her portrait of the late Tane Chatfield who died in custody in 2017, with Tane’s mother Nioka

Social justice, stolen generations, frontier wars, human rights and the criminal justice system are among the subjects explored in the two-unit HSC Aboriginal Studies course.

Academic Mentor – Indigenous Students and Stage 6 Aboriginal Studies teacher Jade Carr described Australia’s First Peoples as “central to the narratives that make up our national story”.

“Schools and teachers tell this story and sculpt perceptions about what matters, why it matters and what this means,” Jade said.

“It matters because taking proactive steps to build Aboriginal Studies can have significant and positive implications for the individual, school and society.

“We feel obliged to do this as ambassadors for Aboriginal education through our Indigenous Scholarship Program.

“We currently have 21 Indigenous students at IGS, and we are glad to offer this subject to all of our students as a direct initiative of our Reconciliation Action Plan.

“Aboriginal Studies is not just for Aboriginal students, it is a subject that can be embraced by all students and in my experience that is what is happening at our school.”

The major works of the eight students in the 2018 Year 12 Aboriginal Studies class, explored the stolen generations and deaths in custody through visual arts, and struggles with identity through song.

Police relations and Indigenous drag queens were explored through photography and conceptual symbolism, and education systems specific to Indigenous communities were examined in a written comparison.

The importance of women’s business through basket weaving, and social development in housing in Redfern through sketching were also explored.