Koorie students and Elders bring traditional and modern technologies together at Tech School

Tech School is bringing Koorie students and Elders together to tell Aboriginal stories using art, technology and design.

Banyule Nillumbik and Whittlesea Tech School held a Public Art Project workshop for Koorie students to create an art installation as part of Tech Fest.

The Tech School will unveil the installation when it formally opens later this year.

Over a two-day workshop, Elders and local Koorie students brainstormed ideas to create the best artwork to represent the collaboration, and respect and honour 65,000 years of technology.

The Elders spoke to the students about their stories and cultures. Elder Uncle Lyle, who has worked with young people in the community sector for 10 years, says he jumped at the chance to get involved with the project.

'They were really respectful and listened,' Uncle Lyle says. 'They took some good information away from that.'

The project has grown beyond the short workshop and now the keen students will be visiting the Tech School every Wednesday to work on their art installation.

Uncle Lyle says he's looking forward to working with young people involved in the project.

'There's some amazing artists out there,' he says.

'These kids have got the talent, it's there, and they gotta get brought forward.'

History and tech come together 

Elders and students explored working with resin, using conductive paint, circuitry and microcontrollers.

Conductive paint is type of paint that conducts an electric charge so you can use it in an electrical circuit. Touching the paint can trigger sound and light, so there's potential for the piece to come alive and tell a story about culture and country.

Uncle Lyle had never used conductive paint before until the workshop.

'You can make art, tell a story behind the artwork – what region it comes from, about the artist, about the story,' he says.

'The sky's the limit with that paint. It's phenomenal!'

The stories will be told through voice recordings and artefacts embedded in resin.

The Elders and students are working on three designs. One is to produce a message stick telling stories of the past and present, including historical articles and present-day items, like a mobile phone.

Message sticks are a piece of Aboriginal technology that transcend borders and enable communication. 

There's also a piece based on the coolamon, a carrying vessel traditional to some Aboriginal nations, with curved sides to form a shape similar to a canoe. The coolamon was used to carry precious items such as food and babies, and it's also a part of smoking ceremonies. This coolamon will contain traditional stories passed down to the students from Elders.

The third installation is an interactive gum leaf that will play a recording of an Acknowledgement of Country when touched.

New Tech Schools in Melbourne's north

The Banyule-Nillumbik Tech School will be hosted by Melbourne Polytechnic at their Greensborough Campus. This Tech School will have an educational focus on scientific and technical services; healthcare and social assistance; and entrepreneurial skills.

The Whittlesea Tech School will also be hosted by Melbourne Polytechnic at the Epping Campus. The educational focus will be advanced manufacturing; scientific and technical services; healthcare and social assistance; entrepreneurial skills; and food and fibre.

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