Griffith’s first ever Indigenous dance group has won a major statewide youth award just seven months after its establishment in March 2023.
Marrambidya Dance Group won the NSW Youth Action ‘Outstanding Work with First Nations Young People’ gong at the Australian Theatre for Young People in Sydney on Thursday 26 October.
The awards are an annual event hosted by the peak body representing young people and services that support them across NSW.
“When we looked at the nominees, we were taken aback,” group president Jacinta Simpson said. “We had imposter syndrome, asking why are we among these nominees.
“It feels really good to be recognised for the work we do.”
The Griffith-based group were chosen for the top prize ahead of long-established services such as Moree Family Support and Southern Sydney-based Kurranulla Aboriginal Corporation, which was highly commended in the category.
The Marrambidya Dance Group was originally launched to help children aged between three and 17 learn the Wiradjuri language, culture and dance routines for performances across regional NSW.
Ms Simpson said since then, the scope of her collective has continued to expand.
“We started out just as a dance group but we’ve opened up to a lot more things. We’ve started running workshops and we get our kids to run them, that develops their leadership skills and communication skills. Students as young as 10 are in the leadership roles.
“Every school holidays we are booked out for the whole two weeks. Throughout the school terms we’d get around five bookings.
“Last holidays, we did workshops at headspace Griffith [mental health service]. We do arts, dance and music routines, explaining the history and culture behind them.
“We have 50 registered kids, with an active roster of 40 – some children live out of town and come back in school holidays.
“The goal for us is to become an organisation that non-Indigenous bodies can come to and learn about Indigenous culture.”
‘Marrambidya’ means ‘big water’ in the Wiradjuri language. The group is open to Indigenous children throughout the region, and includes members from Darlington Point and Leeton.
Murrumbidgee Regional High School Aboriginal education officer Kerrilee Philp was delighted when her 13-year-old daughter Lijanah joined the group in March.
“We didn’t have this growing up. There was nowhere for us to learn [Indigenous dance]. But I feel this is a good chance for kids to reconnect with their identity as an Aboriginal child,” she said.
The group has a busy remainder of 2023 coming up.
“We are helping out with the [Griffith law firm] Cater and Blumer’s 100-year documentary; we’ve narrated some parts of it. They’re covering the pre-colonisation history too … I’ve narrated some of it, we’ve got our kids dancing in it.”
More information on the Marrambidya Dance Group can be found on its Facebook Page.