Connecting students to First Peoples communities through collaborative music making Faculty Spark - View, reflect and apply

Last updated on 14/10/2019

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This course provides students an opportunity to collaborate with community organisations in remote Australia. It enables students to engage in cross-cultural learning experiences by working with Elders and artists on community-led arts projects.


Developing the cultural humility and capability of students can be difficult in a traditional lecture setting. This is often developed most effectively through lived experience and the opportunity to develop relationships in and across cultures.

Since 2009, students within the Queensland Conservatorium have been offered the opportunity to undertake an immersion trip in remote Australia (e.g. Central Australia) as part of an elective course.

As the longest living cultures in the world, there is much to be learned from our First Peoples. The premise of this course is to embed First Peoples knowledges within the curriculum, foster a greater sense of understanding within our students of Indigenous knowledges and cultures, and provide an opportunity for students to enhance their cross-cultural capability.


As articulated within the 5911QCM Course Profile, “The central purpose of this course is to extend the cultural experiences of students by immersing them in practice and/or practice led research within a culture or environment that highlights a range of different environmental and social issues to their own.”

The premise of this immersion trip is to have students, with the support of the Convenor, visit an Indigenous community for approximately two weeks. During this time, students work in collaboration with community organisations for tasks such as: musical performances or the facilitation of the Desert Harmony Festival, assisting in developing the infrastructure for community music buildings, or teaching music to children in afterschool programs.

Depending upon the offering, the cohort can range from 4 students, anywhere up to 9 students. The learning outcomes are negotiated between the community organisation/s and the convenor prior to the immersion and will depend upon community priorities. Students are competitively selected to ensure that the students match the skills that are required within the community. To be successful, students must complete an Expression of Interest form and participate in an interview with the Course Convenor.

In-field participation and creative output
The immersion trip constitutes 50 per cent of the course’s total marks. As outlined within the Course Profile, “This assessment item assess the extent and quality of participation throughout the in-field component of this course. A major in-field activity will take the form of creatively engaging with, and responding to, local musicians and/or music practices. Guided by the staff member, students will work collaboratively toward the presentation of a creative output during the mobility project. The specific nature of these creative projects will vary; details will be provided during the pre-departure seminars and during the project.”

Digital story and presentation
The second assessment component is worth a total of 25 per cent requires students to:

  1. Develop a 3 to 3.5 minute digital story about their mobility experiences and learning.
  2. A presentation (maximum 5 minutes) of the digital story to fellow students and staff, and/or the general public, post-mobility. The presentation should give insight into the most important learnings from the mobility project.

Students are given the flexibility to choose how they wish to artistically express themselves. For example, they may include music in the background or intersperse the video with pictures taken during their trip. These images give agency to those individuals that they may speak about in their story, and authentically represent the storytelling medium. Once students submit these digital stories to the Convenor, they are shared with the relevant community organisation/s prior to publication to ensure that the content / images can be published.

Reflective Journal
The final element is worth 25 per cent of the total grade and requires students to create a reflective journal. Students are prompted with questions to consider, and are asked to (at a minimum) complete reflections prior, during and after the trip. Students are advised that their “entries should not be merely descriptions of [their] activities” but rather constitute a critical reflection on their experiences (Course Profile).

Students are also encouraged to express their creativity in this assessment item and broaden their reflection beyond a text-based narrative. This may include: illustrations, drawings, pictures, poems, musical representations, knitting and other creative formats.


Since 2009, students have noted what a transformational experience this immersion provides. There have been a range of success stories in which students have gone back to work in the community or even graduated and decided to work in the Northern Territory.

This course has enabled students to reflect upon their own cultural privileges and engage with community organisations in a positive and constructive manner.


Consider the following when implementing this approach:

  • Develop relationships with community organisations. Engage with industry stakeholders and community organisations to find common ground.
  • Look at it from a strengths based point of view. In our circumstance, we saw their musicality, their knowledges and culture as key strengths.
  • Select students on a competitive basis and have students reflect upon why they want to participate in the immersion.
  • Provide a range of supports for your students. This includes: Orientation information events prior to immersion; nightly debriefs during immersion and; a final debrief and showcase at the conclusion of the immersion.
  • Stay in contact with the Griffith Council of Elders for guidance and advice.

Next Steps

The Global Local Project can be implemented on a local scale, for example, within the Brisbane or Gold Coast areas.

We have a large range of community organisations based in Brisbane to the Gold Coast that we could develop partnerships with.

Griffith Graduate Attributes

These assessment items align to all of the Griffith Graduate Attributes:

  • Knowledgeable and skilled with critical judgement
  • Effective communicators and collaborators
    Innovative, creative and entrepreneurial
  • Socially responsible and engaged in their communities
  • Culturally capable when working with First Australians
  • Effective in culturally diverse and international environments

This course requires students to draw upon their discipline knowledge, communicate and collaborate with diverse cultures and develop solutions to issues that may be confronting the community.

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Preferred Citation

Bartleet, B.-L. and Learning Futures (2019). Connecting students to First Peoples communities through collaborative music making. Retrieved from