22 March 2023

'We didn't have this growing up': Griffith's first Indigenous dance group launched

| Oliver Jacques
Join the conversation
two Indigenous girls

Kerrilee Philp is delighted her daughter Lijanah is doing something she couldn’t do as a child. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

For the first time, Griffith will have a specialist dance group for Indigenous youth, which had its inaugural practice session at Pioneer Park Museum on Monday (13 March).

The Marrambidya Dance Group, supported by the Griffith Aboriginal Land Council (GALC), Aboriginal Medical Service and Murrumbidgee Regional High School (MRHS), will see children aged between three and 17 learn Wiradjuri language, culture and dance routines that will be performed across regional NSW.

GALC social media manager Jacinta Simpson said the idea of having regular classes came from the success of Marrambidya’s performance at an event on 26 January, known as Survival Day.

“Some of the little kids were a little shy at first, but after Survival Day, they were like ‘we love dancing’, ‘can we put the music on at home so we can dance’ … that gave us the confidence to do this on a regular basis,” Ms Simpson said.

”We have kids from Griffith, Darlington Point, Leeton and elsewhere … we are trying to figure out what sort of schedule we might have – it might be weekly or bi-weekly.

“In October last year, the Aboriginal Medical Centre put on a mental health week holiday camp. They taught the dance then. In the last school holidays, they put on another camp to dance again, and they were very successful.”

READ ALSO ‘The town’s mum’: Griffith’s longest-serving waitress reflects on 43 years in the job

Ms Simpson said it was likely to lead to big things for those who took part.

“They’ve already got a booking for [performances over] Easter and we’ve received expressions of interest for NAIDOC Week in West Wyalong,” she said.

“Dinawan’s Connections [a Cowra dance group] went and performed in the Indigenous All Stars game [rugby league] in New Zealand, so there’s lots of possibilities in the future.”

Children dancing on the grass

Marrambidya practising at Pioneer Park Museum. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

Jacinta’s mother, Vickie Louise Simpson of the AMS, has been running the initial classes.

“She teaches them about the culture and language in between the dance exercises … we’ve got kids who can already speak our language as well as play the didgeridoo,” Jacinta said.

MRHS Aboriginal education officer Kerrilee Philp is delighted that her 13-year-old daughter Lijanah has joined the group.

“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,” Ms Philp said.

“It’s also nice for the Marian [Catholic College] kids to come out and mix with the public school kids … and for them to come and get into the culture.”

READ ALSO Murrumbidgee Regional High graduate to pursue career in social media management

Lijanah enjoyed the social aspects.

“It’s a good way to get together and meet new people.”

The word ”Marrambidya” means ”big water” in the Wiradjuri language and reflects the traditional name of the Murrumbidgee River.

If you or your children would like to join the Marrambidya dancers, you can get in touch with them via their Facebook page or by emailing Marrambidya.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

Daily Digest

Want the best Riverina news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riverina stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.