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Students shine a light on Aussie Farmers’ struggle with performance

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When it comes to helping students to understand complicated issues and troubling times, there is no substitute for the arts.

This year schools all over Australia have used the Wakakirri Story Dance Challenge as an opportunity to tell stories that reflect students’ views and educate about issues ranging from local news stories to global events through dance and drama.

Wakakirri’s 2018 performance season wrapped in September after 240 schools performed. Popular themes included cyber bullying, the refugee crisis, and the environmental impact of plastic bags.

In New South Wales, Northmead Creative and Performing Arts High School explored the issues currently being faced by Australia’s farming families, in particular the toll of drought.

Northmead’s Wakakirri coordinator Warren Flanagan, an English, Drama and Entertainment teacher, explained that his students learned the true meaning of the term 'the Aussie battler' when they sought to tell a story that “every Australian can relate to”.

“We discovered our Australian climate is very harsh to our farmers and many properties nationally have suffered from the aftermath of extreme weather, with drought being the most severe,” said Mr Flanagan.

In Northmead’s performance titled 'The Farmer Wants a Life', buying a piece of the Aussie dream becomes reality for the Jones’s. However working on the farm becomes a struggle as rain and drought damage crops. While the Jones’s lose everything, the Banks make another record profit. Wakakirri’s National Panel representatives called it “a mini musical epic with strong attention to plot, drama and the human spirit”.

Flanagan explained that through their research, his Wakakirri team decided the fight of Australian farmers was important to portray on the Wakakirri stage.

“We learnt that throughout history it has been the Australian public that has raised funds in support of our farmers while our four major banks show no compassion but continue to break record profits. We wanted to show this in our performance and remind people that things can change…” he said.

In addition to the performance, the school also hosted a fundraiser for drought relief charity Buy A Bale where staff and students dressed as farmers and farm animals for the day for a gold coin donation.

Does your school have a story to tell? The Wakakirri Story Dance Challenge will return in 2019. Registrations open October 2018. Go to for dates and registration info & subscribe for up-to-date information.

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