Community connects at Bankstown’s big day of learning, Weaving Yarns.

Community connects at Bankstown’s big day of learning, Weaving Yarns.

What a day! Weaving Yarns, The Song Room’s Big Day of Learning at Bankstown Arts Centre, was a joyous example of how the arts creates opportunities for inclusion, learning and the celebration of community.

students engaged in arts learning workshop

Students from five schools in Bankstown came together for a day of arts learning to celebrate culture, creativity and collaboration. Led by The Song Room Teaching Artists, with special guest artists and First Nations Elders, students participated in weaving, dancing, music and visual arts workshops, all designed to enhance social-emotional skills and wellbeing. The day ended in a high-energy performance of song and dance that had everyone cheering in celebration.

The team from Alpha, The Athlete’s Foot kicked off the community celebration with a special gift of new school shoes for the students who attended. Watching the excitement, as old shoes were replaced by the new, put a spring in everyone’s step! The day was set for community connection, support and inclusion. Thank you, Alpha, The Athlete’s Foot for your support. Our partnership is helping to level the learning playing field for schools across Australia.


Every aspect of the day was designed to expose children to the supportive, diverse and creative community that they are a part of in Bankstown. After Aunty Lyn Martin’s generous Welcome to Country, students broke out into three workshop groups designed to enhance their social-emotional skills through exposure to the arts and First Nations cultural practices. Their learning took place in their local Bankstown Arts Centre, exposing them to a professional and inspiring contemporary multi-arts venue.

Aunty Karleen Green (Butchulla and Bundjalung), one of NSW’s most respected master weavers, shared her cultural and creative traditions in the first workshop. Students were thrilled to learn about and make their own Yarning stick, that they could use to create space for respectful conversation.


Slideshow of weaving workshop with Aunty Karleen Green


The Song Room’s visual arts Teaching Artist, Koreena Leverett (Worimi), led the second workshop. To create a sense of belonging, each group was given a totem from the local Darug People; buru (kangaroo), guruwin (shark), and binyang (bird). Koreena taught students about cultural icons and  symbols before they painted their totem’s story onto a banner. Each banner was then used as a backdrop in the final group performance where all totem groups came together in song.


Students celebrated their totem in the final workshop of music and dance. Teaching Artist and Community Liaison Officer Colin Watego led students in writing a verse about their totem that became part of the Weaving Yarns song. Teaching Artist, Kelvin Testolin, worked with each group to choreograph a dance to express their lyrics. Working together, writing and rehearsing, set up a learning environment that allowed students to contribute ideas, listen to each other, try new things, make mistakes and try again.

The song and dance was performed by the students as the final activity of the day. The Song Room band – featuring Cesar Marin on bass, Steve Marin on drums and Jeremiah Sampson on keyboard – kept the tunes coming as students broke into freestyle dance. School teachers, workshop artist and supporters from The Smith Family joined the students on the dance floor in a dynamic celebration of community and culture. There was an overwhelming sense of excitement and joy as the cheers of enthusiasm filled the room.


Slideshow of music and dance workshop with Colin Watego, Cesar Marin and Kelvin Testolin


The Big Day of Learning was a huge success. Students had an opportunity to creatively express their stories and identity, and learn new skills in a joyful and inclusive environment. The emphasis was on learning, process, patience and participation, rather than on a “perfect” or polished outcome. Mistakes were accepted and celebrated as learning opportunities.

Special thanks to The Song Room supporters, partners, and friends who came along. We are very proud to deliver this project in partnership with the incredible team from The Smith Family, Bankstown – as part of the Communities for Children Initiative.  And of course, a huge thanks to our Song Room Teaching Artists and guest artists, without who we would not be able to do what we do.


Learn about The Song Room programs, including Community Projects, here.