The Northern Rivers community has many communities within communities. But one thing I constantly observe is how music, dance and art crosses boundaries, different cultures, breaks down barriers and brings communities within our community together. Through my friend Tom Pickerd, and a chain of big life events over the last 6 months, I was lucky enough to meet Mark Robertson. Mark’s work in indigenous communities that I have had little contact with in our region interested me and inspired me greatly.
Mark (MC Dingo) runs a business called One Vision Production’s he introduces arts based multi-literacy programs to isolated and marginalised communities. Mark works with, community centres, schools, government organisation’s, local music artists and youth agencies. The workshops that Mark runs combine the use of hip-hop, theatre and film production. Young people who participate learn new skills while being able to be apart of a quality-learning environment that consistently achieves positive outcomes. A few days a week Mark works with the team at Ngulingah, the Lismore Land Council that is an educational support centre for indigenous youth. This is where I confess my complete and utter ignorance I didn’t even know that Ngulingah existed let alone what it did!
Mark’s passion in his work at One Vision Productions is clearly focused on self-empowerment of indigenous youth. Groups attend Hip Hop, Film Making and fitness programs. Ngulingah programs re-engage and strengthen Indigenous youth with education. They have been a huge success with attendance rates now at 90-95%. Through these programs they are building confidence in indigenous youth in the Northern Rivers community and other communities are seeing the programs and being inspired.
Through the generosity of The Boomerang Festival organisers, they have gifted 15 tickets to the Boomerang Festival to Mark, Tom and Mark’s colleagues from Ngulingah, Dusty McOnie and Rob Roberts and a great group of 12 boys from Tabulam, Lismore and surrounds, ranging in age from 12 – 18yrs. I had heard Tom talking about how he volunteers his time to work with Mark teaching a group of indigenous youth but I had no idea just what a positive impact was being made.
Mark and Tom invited me along to meet the boys, before we all attend the Boomerang Festival together, as they learnt to surf at Lennox Head last Friday as a part of a Ngulingah educational support program.The boys were having a ball (as you can see through the photographs I took). Within about 10mins I was answering to “sister” and laughing with the boys on a glorious day in the sunshine, Mark has the most fantastic and infectious laugh and “laugh like Mark” was the call of the day. Tom shouted us all lunch in Lennox and the boys were all discussing how are super excited they are about attending the Boomerang Festival. One of the boys (the one in the close up portrait with the megawatt smile) Troy Weribone, is a naturally talented young photographer who will be helping me photograph the festival for Common Ground.
Mark said “To see a big festival first hand will be a big eye opener and positive influence on these boys that would most probably never have this opportunity without the generosity of the festival organisers, it will reinforce all the work that we are doing to show these kids what they can achieve”