NIDA acknowledges the Traditional Owners and Custodians of the lands on which we learn and tell stories, the Bidjigal, Gadigal, Dharawal and Dharug peoples, and we pay our respects to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders past and present.


NIDA Open develops customised program on Cockatoo Island

NIDA Open’s Schools program collaborated with Oxley College to run site specific workshops in performance making and storytelling in response to Cockatoo Island.

Photo: Working with a NIDA tutor, the students explore the stories of the site to create performance ideas.

NIDA Open’s Schools program collaborated with Oxley College to run site specific workshops in performance making and storytelling in response to Cockatoo Island.

Oxley College from the Southern Highlands in New South Wales brought their Year 9 students to Sydney Harbour and Cockatoo Island to immerse themselves in history, geography and creativity. The school is an independent, co-educational, K-12 day school and initiated the project as part of a three week program called Rights of Passage.

Seven NIDA Open tutors and NIDA Open Schools Coordinator Kate Sherman travelled to the island to develop work that would relate specifically to the site and emerge from it. The island is rich in stories, with both convict an industrial history, as well as sacred significance for Sydney’s Wangal First Nations people.

After a tour the students responded to the information through reflective writing gathering what stories were most interesting to them. Stimulated by questions the students’ reflective writing was the provocation for the workshops which drew on inspiration around sounds, textures and images.

After ensemble warm ups and basic skills learning, the students shaped the beginnings of a performance they would share with each other later that evening.

Bronwyn Tregenza, from Oxley College was impressed that the students were deeply engaged in discovery and creation of their own dramatic works with the support of NIDA Tutors all across the Island.

‘It was in the evening when they performed the pieces that we realised the depth of learning that had occurred,’ she said. ‘The students’ performances were powerful and clever; they connected with moments in the Island’s history that speak to the essence of our humanity and collaborated so effectively to create stirring visual presentations which were breathtaking. There were sophisticated dramatic techniques used, a strong sense of group cohesion, intimate understanding of the historical content and a passionate urgency about the truth they wanted to tell.’

Year 9 Oxley College student Hannah explained the process around creating a site specific character that she developed into a duologue with her fellow student. She drew on the early convict days of imprisonment, and mental health issues of being locked up. ‘We made a historical play or a monologue about these two women that we created,’ she explained.

‘It was so much fun because I like acting and I like writing stories. I often do that in my own time, and I love performing. I loved the way that we were allowed to do our own thing. We had a period of time writing without thinking, and it flowed really well and easily.

‘It’s story telling in a different way – it’s a really creative way of making a story. I haven’t done this before. I am so excited to perform this evening.’

Feeling inspired? For more information about NIDA Open Schools program, visithere.