Gumbaynggirr cultural exchange to New Zealand filled with highlights

Gumbaynggirr dancers wait to take part in the Waitangi Day sunrise ceremony.

MEMBERS of the Bularri Muurlay Nyanggan Aboriginal Corporation (BMNAC) have returned from a very successful cultural exchange to New Zealand.

Staff members, dancers, including seven Gumbaynggirr Giingana Freedom School (GGFS) students, and parents travelled to Akerama, near Waitangi, to visit Māori schools and take part in cultural ceremonies.

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The trip grew out of conversations between a BMNAC Board member and some Māori friends about GGFS who then suggested a visit to NZ to look at Te Reo Māori (Māori language) schools.

As planning progressed it transpired that the trip would coincide with the NRL’s Māori versus Indigenous All Stars game in Rotarua.

BMNAC received some sponsorship from the NRL in return for cultural performances at the NRL players’ dinner on the Thursday before the game and at the game.

Although these would be highlights for any such trip, the major highlight was the invitation to participate in the Waitangi Day ceremony at the treaty ground on Monday, February 6.

The Gumbaynggirr dancers took part in the sunrise ceremony then performed for Māori elders later in the day.

“It was the experience of a lifetime because we were the first group other than Māori to participate in the sunrise ceremony,” BMNAC spokesperson Nathan Brennan said.

The group also visited three Māori schools where they were welcomed with a powhiri (a Māori welcoming ceremony involving speeches, cultural performance and singing) and shared Gumbaynggirr culture through dance.

BMNAC established a sister school relationship with Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Kura Kokiri school, where students learn through immersion in Te Reo Māori.

Mr Brennan said New Zealand education regulations support immersion in indigenous languages and the Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Kura Kokiri students are still proficient in English.

He said BMNAC intends to take GGFS teachers during school holidays next year to observe, share and take part in workshops and that a Māori contingent will make a reciprocal visit.

By Andrew VIVIAN

Practising for the All Stars game.

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