The jarring sounds of banging, sawing and chiselling echo from a school in Queensland’s North Burnett where 70 boys from year six are learning to make their own didgeridoo in a day.

Key points:

  • Primary school students have been gaining life skills through a one-day didgeridoo-making program
  • It has increased understanding of local Aboriginal culture and built respect
  • Other Indigenous men have been encouraged to join and run the program

But in this manual arts class at Eidsvold, west of Bundaberg, the students walk away with not only an ancient instrument, but important life skills and new-found confidence to guide them in the future.

Alex Murchison has been running the Didge in a Day initiative for more than 15 years, teaching students from more than 10 schools how to transform termite-hollowed trunks.

“It’s that mentoring that I think is sometimes more important than the actual process,” Mr Murchison said.

Program about ‘teaching respect’

Wakka Wakka man Corey Appo is a former student who is now a teacher aide at Eidsvold State School, where the children swap books for tools.

Mr Appo, 26, said he started the program having no idea how to play the didgeridoo and finished not only knowing how to make the Indigenous wind instrument, but also with other life skills.

The students start the day with the hollowed trunk before they are guided through the process of shaping and sanding the didgeridoos.

Corey Appo stands wearing an indigenous print shirt in a manual arts shed at Eidsvold State School.

Corey Appo says the day-long workshop encourages students to ask more questions about Aboriginal culture.(

ABC Wide Bay: Nicole Hegarty

)

The workshops were brought to Eidsvold after schools identified a need for local boys to build their understanding of cultures and grow friendships before transitioning to high school.

The North Burnett Regional Council has funded the initiative.

Increased cultural understanding

Mr Murchison said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous boys participated, helping to increase understanding of local cultures.

“I like to try to put those layers in there with the desire that the boys think to themselves; if they make positive choices, they get better outcomes in life,” he said.

Closeup photo of a hand filing the inside of a didgeridoo.

About 70 year six students participated in the one day workshops over two weeks.(

ABC Illawarra: Sarah Gore

)

Expansion on the cards

Mr Murchison said he had noticed the positive results and hoped to expand the program.

“I’d love to see Indigenous men make those connections with the students and lift them up.”

Mr Appo said the day also prompted students to learn more about Aboriginal culture.

“It opens the door for them to start to ask questions,” he said.

“We understand some of them won’t know [about Aboriginal culture] but we are here to guide them.”

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A group of school kids gather around their principal on the school oval.

Alex Murchison demonstrates didgeridoo making with a student filing a didgeridoo in a lathe.

Making a didgeridoo in a day ‘opens the door’ for kids to ask questions
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