From Clifton Hill to Ngulu-Nganjin

Three teachers take 300 students on an award-winning theatrical trip.

Monday, 19 June 2023 at 11:00 pm
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Everyone’s talking about ‘Ngulu-Nganjin’ – and especially about the Woi-wurrung and Adnyamathanha languages featured in the wonderful theatrical performance from Clifton Hill Primary School.

The performance of ‘Ngulu-Nganjin’, involving 300 of the school’s students (from grades 4 to 6) and collaboration with First Nations artists, was a much-applauded winner at the recent Department of Education Secretary’s Marrung Awards on Wednesday 31 May 2023, at Melbourne Museum.

‘Ngulu-Nganjin’ was honoured in the Positive Climate for Learning category. It wowed school audiences over 2 unforgettable performances and was a highly popular winner.

The department is proud that a grant from the department’s Koorie Outcomes Division helped get this performance ‘on the road’.

‘Ngulu-Nganjin’ tells the story of a road trip with a difference. For a start, the story features a school road trip without a teacher or bus driver, and is loosely based on the classic Alison Lester book ‘Are We There Yet?’.

The Clifton Hill Primary School teachers behind the much-acclaimed show – Kate Denborough, Roz Girvan and Sophie Gammon – initially approached the families of First Nations students about the idea of the production.

The 3 teachers’ creative vision for the production was original, ambitious and unstinting. They wanted to show students on a road trip learning First Nations languages and coming into contact with various Aboriginal communities around Australia.

After hearing the vision for the project, the families were keen to support the production and worked closely with the teachers.

Next, the teachers had to reach out to communities to access stories, language, songs and, of course, seek permission to use them.

With permission from Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation and Mandy Nicholson, the cast spoke Woi-wurrung, and with permission from Terrence and Josephine Coulthard, authors of ‘Adnyamathanha - A Culture Guide and Language Book’, also spoke Adnyamathanha.

Mandy is a recognised artist, having produced carvings, etchings, prints, airbrushed works, ceramic pieces, murals, corporate logos, children's clothing and public art works over the last 25-plus years.

Mandy and her daughter Ky-ya also gave permission to name the production 'Ngulu-Nganjin', which in Woiwurrung means 'everyone's voice'.

To complete their vision, Kate, Roz and Sophie collaborated with First Nations artists Glenn SheaNathan Bird and Fred Leone to create a positive and powerful school production that no one involved will forget.

Kate, Roz and Sophie said their motivation was to create a project that could be given to every school in Victoria to be adapted to really ignite pride in language and to keep First Nations languages living.

May the journey continue!

Find out more

For more information, refer to the Secretary’s Marrung Awards.

For further enquiries, contact the department by email: