Kirli Saunders is on a mission to celebrate, share and preserve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages with Australians. Her tool of choice – poetry.

15 July 2019

Kirli is a proud Gunai woman, with ties to the Yuin, Gundungurra, Gadigal and Biripi people.

She founded and manages the Poetry in First Languages program at Red Room Poetry and has already delivered workshops to thousands of students and community members around New South Wales.

These workshops connect schools with Elders, language custodians and poets who support both Indigenous and non-indigenous kids to create poetry in First Nations languages.  

The aim of the workshops are to strengthen the connection of students to Country, language and community.

For Kirli, language and land are inextricably linked. ‘When we’re talking to students, when we’re learning language, we’re also unpacking those parts of our identity,’ Kirli said.

 ‘What we see is students come in really unsure about what language and identity and culture are to them and as conversation unfolds they become more and more confident and more and more proud of those parts of their identities.’

This year the program will expand to Queensland, the Northern Territory and the ACT, reaching towns far and wide, to include languages such as Arrernte, Barkindji, Bundjalung, Dharawal, Gumea Dharawal, Ngunawal and Yugambeh.

The workshops have been such as success that Kirli has been invited to attend the Australian Embassy in Indonesia to share her work and highlight how the project is celebrating Indigenous languages and culture during the International Year of Indigenous Languages.

On World Youth Skills Day it is important to reflect on the need to expand communication skills and education for young people through innovative and interesting approaches such as that of Red Room Poetry.

Image courtesy of Red Room Poetry.

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