Aboriginal Artists in Schools

For Schools / First Nations

Teaching through Creation Stories

A community and cultural development project which aims to establish longer-term and sustainable connections between Aboriginal Elders, artists, cultural practitioners and their local schools.

Aboriginal Artists in Schools – Teaching through Creation Stories employs the expertise of local Aboriginal Elders, artists and cultural practitioners to collaborate with teachers, addressing the opportunities and challenges presented by the cross curriculum requirements of the Australian Curriculum: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures. The program provides rich professional development for teachers and authentic learning outcomes for students through a sustainable artist in residence model.

Video credit: Blue Goanna Digital

The project is based on the award winning pilot project Ngarrindjeri Yanun, a long- term partnership project between Catholic Education SA and Carclew that employed six artists and Elders teaching Creation Stories through a multi arts program at St Joseph’s Primary School in Murray Bridge completed in 2017.

Video Credit: Smith and Collins

The results of the pilot project have been outstanding. Carclew has since developed a modular model of the program that is currently being delivered at a number of levels of engagement for South Australian schools

This project is supported by Catholic Education South Australia, the Department for Education and Nunn Dimos Foundation.

Banner image: Photo by Orana Studios


In 2016, Carclew embarked on an exciting new partnership with Catholic Education South Australia (CESA) to deliver the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Artist Development Pilot.

The project commenced in term 3 2016, with CESA and Carclew engaging Ngarrindjeri artists Betty Sumner, Lena Rigney and Boandik artist Sonya Smith to work with St. Joseph’s Primary School Murray Bridge students and teachers. The artists introduced students to visual art mediums such as weaving, feathered flowers and performing arts through cultural songs and dreaming stories to make, create and learn about local Ngarrindjeri culture.

The pilot aimed to:

  • establish a sustainable artist in residence program within school environments for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and cultural workers.
  • enable further opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists to receive the training, professional development and essential knowledge required to empower the artists and give them the confidence to be able to go into a school, educational or organisational environment and facilitate cultural learning
  • contribute to a greater need for more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists to be able to actively engage with young people and educators about Aboriginal arts and culture in an educational context
  • increase the skills development and employability of Aboriginal artists
  • avoid the appropriation of culture that unintentionally occurs in school

The Artists in Residence model has proven to:

  • Enhance student learning in, through and about Aboriginal art, histories and culture.
  • Students gain different perspectives on what it means to be a professional artist, through meaningful opportunities to find out about the artist’s life and by seeing them in the context of the world they work.
  • Teachers and students to develop and build relationships within the wider Aboriginal community.
  • Students learn how artists gain inspiration from a variety of sources including their own experiences and environment, their culture, historical and contemporary sources.
  • Working with professional artists helps students to recognise that there is a process behind finished pieces of art and a career as a professional artist.

This joint initiative between CESA and Carclew has established stronger relationships between Aboriginal artists in their community, assisting educators in further developing their knowledge base and teaching capacity, contributing to CESA’s commitment to reconciliation in South Australia’s Catholic education system and providing a meaningful learning environment for students in Aboriginal art, histories and culture.