Powerful poetry gets giggles and raises issues faced by Aboriginal Australians

Federation's Aboriginal Members Conference delegates were treated to performance poetry by Steven Oliver of Black Comedy fame on Saturday.

His poems raise issues such as Aboriginal incarceration levels, reduced life-expectancy, substance abuse and suicide rates:

People think the answer is to deny us our worth.
We should just forget who we are.
Answer? The white way.
If you want a better life you better do what the man say.
And it just goes around in circles.
Two hundred and twenty seven years and we're facing the same hurdles.
Asking the same things we've been asking since way back when.

His poetry has been included in a teaching resource, viewed online more than two million times and is used by university lecturers.

Following the performance of several of his poems and a song, Steven Oliver said that it took him a while to call himself a writer.

“It’s only happened in these last few years  — considering myself one was never part of my identity,” he said.

“I’ve always written for as long as I can remember. The amount of effort I put into my penmanship was ridiculous…for some reason though, writing was never presented to me as an option. I was never told that I could be a writer...maybe I was crap at high school, maybe my poems were just seen as a hobby that couldn’t lead to anything.”

“I was always told I could be a dancer…maybe it made more sense to people that an Aboriginal kids had more chance at being a dancer than a writer,” he added.

Conference workshops

Federation campaigns and professional issues were covered in a variety of workshop offerings.

Teachers interested in union activism were clued-up on how they can participate in Federation campaigns and encourage others to join them in the Gonski Campaigning, Leadership and Your Role as Federation Activist; Stop TAFE Cuts — What's the next phase for TAFE; and the Blogging, Tweeting and Curating for Teacher Activists workshop.

One workshop gave advice on asserting professional authority in regards to determining workload.

In a session for school leaders and aspiring school leaders, participants were given advice about dealing with challenging situations — with the importance of procedural fairness emphasised. Teachers were also advised about the support Federation can offer.

Workshops specific to beginning teachers and teachers of students with disability dealt with issues concerning their work. Other workshops addressed the Performance and Development Framework, women's workplace rights and creating safer schools for LGBTIQ students, families and teachers.

In the afternoon, participants were treated to NESA-accredited workshops regarding resources at their disposal from Taronga Zoo and Cool Australia.

Share This