Wahluu Racing Team (WRT) is an innovative partnership program that provides new and important opportunities for disengaged/at-risk students in rural & regional areas. The program provides young people with incentives to engage with education, using culture, technology and arts content. WRT provides young people with an immersive learning experience using the theme of Wahluu (Mount Panorama) to link Aboriginal culture, ancient knowledge and belief systems with modern motor racing and its related technologies.
Offering a flexible approach to education, WRT will help these students overcome barriers to self-realisation in education, build self-esteem, self-belief and resilience, take a step toward bridging socio-economic incongruity, and help them engineer their own success. The program has significant potential to address the needs of a highly disadvantaged youth sector in creating sustainable pathways through enhancing learning, skills, training and employment opportunities which would otherwise be denied through traditional learning pathways.
Image; courtesy Bathurst Wiradyuri &Aboriginal Community Elders
Wahluu Racing Team is a series of project-based learning modules clustered around the central concept of initiation, responsibility and respect, with comparisons drawn between ancient and modern corrections to reinforce pride in culture and the relevance of past beliefs and practices with modern societal applications. This project will signpost paths to tertiary study (TAFE & university) through exposure to a range of skills & arts associated with the sport of motor racing utilising a variety of learning and teaching options including web based, video conferencing and face to face delivery.
The program has its foundations, subject matter and educational content examining the Wiradyuri roots before moving to modern applications. Participants are educated in local culture and modern practise, for example, our media module starts with an examination of message sticks, ancient symbols and motifs, and embedded meaning through dance and song, before examining modern media practices and skills. Students then cover a range of topics including STEM, graphic design, hospitality, event management, costume design, media /communications, and explore each subject’s ancient Wiradyuri equivalents and their connections to signposted tertiary outcomes associated with motor racing themes. A wide range of media & STEM/STEaM skills form the core of the proposed project, and completion of the units will help break down students' natural aversion to TAFE and university as a post Year 10 possibility. This in turn means less students leaving school early with almost inevitable unemployment outcomes.
As part of the program, participant schools will each own a simulator networked with other schools, allowing students to race other teams from other participating high schools on a virtual racetrack of Mount Panorama / Wahluu. Racing teams earn time on the Mt Panorama virtual track through attendance, participation, dedication, behaviour and completion of module tasks. The Wahluu Racing Team project is designed to allow greater participation for disengaged students in a format that respects and values all students. The project seeks to encompass an institution-wide approach that is comprehensive, integrated and coordinated through the curriculum. As cited by the Mitchell Institute, currently the vast differences in educational opportunity across socio-economic groups challenge Australia’s claims of an education system that is fair and competitive by international standards, and stresses that systems must identify ways to connect those young people most in need with the education providers who are best able to support them.
WRT aims to educationally revitalise rural and remote areas by utilising its VC infrastructure to deliver a low-cost, zero carbon footprint, highly interactive model incorporating inclusive learning environments and strategies that will focus on student learning outcomes and successes. Our vision is to help overcome a lack of access to educational services by disengaged students in rural/remote areas. As identified by the Mitchell Institute (Educational Opportunities in Australia 2015),
‘Differences in outcomes are compounded by differences in access to educational services; socio-economically disadvantaged students have lower attendance at school, are more likely to leave school early, and less likely to attend university.’
By utilising community partners across industry, business and tertiary sectors, pathway opportunities and support mechanisms are provided for at-risk youth to engage with education and employment training outcomes. The Wahluu Racing Team project will help build capacity in students and teachers by exposing them to new skills and pedagogies through hands-on training by business and industry professionals. This will give at-risk, disengaged student’s greater employability prospects through embedding new skills and learning outcomes that reflect and resonate with their specific interests.
Life Span Model Approach
Inspired by the traditional Wiradyuri possum skin motif; the skin being an agent of nurture and care throughout ones life span, the Wahluu Racing Team program will implement a multidisciplinary / multiagency life-span approach to supporting individuals through life’s various developmental stages from infancy to adulthood. We also envisage building linkages and transition programs between identified Aboriginal preschools and primary schools to the high school-based Wahluu Racing Team program, through our early intervention program dubbed “Little Wahluu” after the landmark outside of Bathurst identified by the Wiradyuri as the smaller version of Wahluu, and itself a significant site.
The Wiradyuri were known as the Possum Skin People, and the Wahluu Racing Team structure takes a whole-of-life approach to the program, echoing and honouring the traditional role of the possum skin in a person’s life; at birth they were given a single skin, which was “engraved” with their lineage, totem and other relevant information. Although they did not celebrate birthdays in the Western sense, each year they were given another skin, so the possum skin cloak/blanket grew as they grew, and each year new engraving was added. This cloak grew to full size, a wearable mantle displaying their history, and was considered an important high status item. As an example of its importance, Governor Macquarie, when declaring Bathurst an official township, was presented with a possum skin cloak by one of the Wiradyuri Elders. In 2015, to commemorate the bicentenary, Mayor Gary Rush was presented with a similar cloak, by Dinawan Dyirribang (Uncle Bill Allen).
Despite its honouring of the male initiation site Wahluu and its focus on Aboriginal / Wiradyuri students, Wahluu Racing Team will also be inclusive of non-Aboriginal students of both sexes.
Wahluu is the Wiradyuri name for the initiation site now known as Mt Panorama. WRT honour’s the traditional role of Wahluu as an initiation site of Wiradyuri youth, by providing a modern day version of initiation through mentoring (by Elders and allied industry professionals) whilst demonstrating a model of positive cooperation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students. Interpretative signage at the museum will explain the significance of Wahluu to the Wiradyuri people, providing a clear point of access for Indigenous students. As per the Mitchell Institute report, Indigenous students are significantly less likely to benefit from the opportunities that the Australian education system has to offer.
This program seeks to build cultural pride and help Indigenous students identify the correlation between the traditional initiation element of Wahluu and the mentoring aspect of the Wahluu Racing Project that honour’s the mountain’s original role in their traditional culture. Hence, highlighting the significance of why co-naming the mountain is significant. Crucially, it counters the current public perception that the Wiradyuri are against the racetrack and motor racing, and reinforces their support for it, their rationale (“Young men have always risen to the challenge of the mountain” Dinwan Dyirribang) and their generosity in sharing the site as a site of significance and an important public resource. Through WRT we endeavour to build community understanding of Wiradyuri culture, highlight the central importance of Wahluu to the traditional Wiradyuri way of life, sustain Aboriginal tradition and wisdom for the benefit of future generations, and revitalise yindyamarra in our communities.
WRT significantly enhances existing community cultural facilities by leveraging the established infrastructures of (1) the National Motor Racing Museum, Bathurst (NMRM) and (2) the videoconference network installed by the NSW Department of Education, significantly impacting the lives and career trajectories of disengaged students in regional NSW. It establishes Bathurst as a hub of web-based educational delivery by transforming a static community resource – the NMRM – into an interactive, immersive model of educational best practice. *
* (A similar web-based adaptation was instigated in the Australian Fossil & Mineral Museum in 2007 by DET’s David Foley, AFMM’s Education Officer Penny Packham, and author/presenter Paul Stafford – it won Museums & Galleries National Award (MAGNA) 2011 & NSW IMAGinE Award 2010, and has broadcast to 30,000 students in 800 schools from Bourke to the Bering Sea, Alaska).
Additionally, in association with the National Racing Museum, existing infrastructure installed at this site by the Department of Education will emerge as an invaluable interactive resource through the web-based program and create and provide not only the highest level of encouragement and support to students but deliver training in an environment which is responsive and conducive to their needs. The concept has the prospective of emerging as an exceptional multi-modal program in the delivery of education to highly disadvantaged youth.
Image courtesy Bathurst Wiradyuri &Aboriginal Community Elders
A pilot version of WRT has been trialled in two local high schools (Kelso & Bathurst HS) during Term 4, 2017. It was introduced as a unit of project-based learning to all high schools in the Wiradyuri nation footprint (stretching from Hay to Albury to Lithgow) and well received at the recent Central West Principals' Conference held in Orange in November 2017. An element of buy-in (all schools must purchase the $8K racing simulator that is the 'carrot' in the program) ensures an on-going commitment to the planning, delivering and funding of the project. The pilot program included teachers from Bathurst & Kelso campus who were involved in coordinating class schedules and the delivery of related content.
Link completion of modified TAFE Automotive units delivered online by TAFE Western Motor Sports to clear tertiary pathways and vocational outcomes, with completed modules gaining accreditations as part of a larger diploma.
Reward attendance, classwork, and positive behaviour with the tangible and attractive incentive - time in the racetrack simulator.
Transform the NMRM into an interactive resource capable of broadcasting educational programming on a web-based platform using subject matter of high interest to disengaged students.
Instigate cultural change in disengaged students’ attitude to education. Expose students to
the wide range of industries aligned to motor racing from design (uniforms, logos, car skins)
to media (interview skills, commentating, filming/drone, editing) to health & nutrition (sports
psychology, sleep, diet) including a range of STEM subjects.
Wahluu Racing Project will measure the effectiveness of the program through school attendance, class behaviour, completion of VC units (requirement for use of race car simulator), and completion of HSC. **
** (Coordinators of Cowra High’s Breakaway program for disengaged students reported 80% of participants achieved high school attendance benchmarks and completed their HSC).
Wahluu Racing Team is an on-going program funded by co-contributions from participating schools and other funding streams. Additional funding support is required to sustain the program well into the future.
The program has developed a number of strategic alliances with tertiary study entities and vocational training organisations. Some such organisations include;
NSW Department of Education/DART Connections
NSW Department of Education / SBAT
Wiradyuri & Bathurst Community Elders Group
Charles Sturt University
Bathurst Light Car Club
This is an initiative which has the endorsed support of the Wiradjuri Elders and
Educational and Community organisations such as TAFE NSW, Bathurst Regional Council, the National Motor Racing Museum and Charles Sturt University.
About the Team
Wahluu Racing Team Project is an initiative led by Paul Stafford, David Foley and Vince Lovecchio working in close relationship with the Bathurst Wiradyuri and Community Elders.
Paul Stafford (PAULSTAFFORDLITERACY)
is a literacy consultant in primary and secondary schools throughout Australia and is the author of 17 young adult books (published by Penguin/Random House and New Holland Publishers). He founded an award-winning boys writing club at the Australian Fossil & Mineral Museum called the Dead Bones Society, which he adapted to a web-based platform in 2007 as Scattered Bones, reaching 30,000 students in 750 regional and remote schools. This module won a 2010 IMAGinE Award and the inaugural 2011 Museums & Galleries National Award (MAGNA). His 2016-17 video conference module Tea with Uncle Bill linked Wiradyuri Elder Uncle Bill Allen (Dinawan Dyirribang) with primary schools across NSW for comprehensive question & answer sessions and was nominated for the 2017 IMAGinE Award.
David Foley (DART CONNECTIONS)
David is the driving force behind DART Connections and his team deliver videoconference content for NSW Department of Education. Connections video conferencing excursions bring students and teachers face to face with experts across the globe. Excursions are designed to enrich and supplement curriculum across all stages and key learning areas. The Dubbo NSW based Connections team also manage the learning technologies for NSW’s Rural and Distance Education schools, partnering with the Media Services team within the NSW DEC Information Technology Directorate, a growing list of content providers, telecommunications companies, government agencies, universities and technology vendors to bring the best of the worlds learning experiences, reliable technologies and support to our schools. The Connections team produces a limited number of authentic curriculum relevant content with its content partners including schools and communities. The team have the technology and experience to take your class to unique events and learning experiences.
Vince Lovecchio (COMMUNITY CONNECT CENTRAL WEST)
Vince’s holds a deep passion for community wellbeing and social capacity building and has over thirty years of experience developing community partnerships and facilitating arts/health projects with the aim of empowering people and strengthening communities. By forming an extensive network of strategic partnerships, Vince has been able to develop community initiatives which inspire and empower young people to engage as active participants and contributors to their local communities in purposeful and meaningful ways. Vince founded the Orange Youth Arts Festival in 2014, and has established Community Connect Central West, a project based community wellbeing initiative. He also has broad experience in visual based media having worked extensively in Television, Photography and Film. Vince has won a variety of National and International photography his work has been widely published and represented internationally at major photo conventions.
Bathurst Wiradyuri and Aboriginal Community Elders
(Respect for Wiradyuri)
The Bathurst Wiradyuri & Aboriginal Community Elders promote cultural heritage and traditional Wiradyuri customs. The Elders
provide community consultation and uphold the traditional values
and customs for the benefit of Bathurst and surrounding communities.
The Elders believe it is time to re-awaken & revitalise their traditional
cultural customs and practices, of which we have been deprived since Colonisation. This has come about through language, dance, basket weaving and possum skin cloak & stone tool making and a nation building summit to name a few. Engaging with community to ascertain the need for a nation building process which will assert their sovereignty and encourage self-determination for the Wiradyuri nation as a whole.