Western Sydney’s own stories inspire students and teachers

1-1-Passion Purpose Meaning Flyer - Schools - Blog imageThanks to the support of Dane Ropa, deputy principal of a northern beaches high school, emails were sent last week to almost 200 high school librarians across west and south west Sydney. “Students of creative arts, Australian history, cultural and political studies will find inspiration and vital information in Katherine Knight’s book Passion Purpose Meaning – Arts Activism in Western Sydney (Halstead Press 2013). Since 2014, the stories have continued in her blog – Western Sydney Frontier.”

Dane, who grew up in western Sydney and aims to bring his professional skills back to the region in the future, says “Katherine’s book and blog connect young people to their own, often unknown, cultural history. It clearly shows how they can develop skills to effect change in their community. This deeper understanding of their history helps anchor our talented young people in the fabric of western Sydney and offers a critical chance to impact on the future of the region.”

Dane Ropa 2Dane, left, is a music teacher and former head teacher, faculty of arts, at Cumberland High School. His own leadership and enthusiasm is a great motivator of students and teachers to respond to challenges and help them understand and motivate others. He is coordinator of the NSW Public Schools Millennium Marching Band and a board member of Ars Musica Australis.

Within an hour of sending the email to high school libraries, the first orders were coming in. One teacher librarian responded, “As the theme for Book Week this year is: Australia – Story Country, I think your work would be a perfect match! Would you consider talking to a group of students?” The idea of talking to four groups of Year 11 boys is rapidly taking shape under the title Passion and Purpose – Making a Difference. While the inspiration comes from arts and cultural experience across the region, the application of lessons learned in seeing the big picture, setting goals, developing strategies, maintaining enthusiasm and working as a team has value across unlimited subject areas. Associate Professor Elaine Lally of UTS says exposure to book and blog, “enables students to access sources of their own creativity and leadership potential, through engaging with the powerful stories of personal and professional growth of diverse role models within their home region. Students will hear how other people pursued their passions from a young age, in the face of social, cultural and economic conditions that might not have been the most favorable.”

It’s a challenging time for the arts. Recent savage federal funding cuts are affecting artists of all disciplines and small and medium arts companies across western Sydney. Already they have developed a level of resourcefulness and resilience, which will help them survive, but it will take even more powerful advocacy, creative thinking and commitment to get through.

Message me through my Facebook page – Passion Purpose Meaning – Arts Activism in Western Sydney – or use the Reply button at the end of this post if you would like more information about the book, blog or talks to groups.

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