Cherie and her Mum gathered at a trestle table under one of the many canopies scattered across the grounds of Djarragun College, decorating a blank boomerang with black, yellow and red paint. This year’s Student Art & Hospitality Day – Cooee – was not just another event for her; it was a moment of reconnection with the school community after she made the decision to leave earlier in the year. If it weren’t for the encouragement of Mr. Jason, a well-liked Student Support Officer, Cherrie may never have re-enrolled.
“Mr. Jason kept visiting and encouraging my children. He showed an interest and all my kids connected with him. Because of Jason, Cherrie decided she was going back to school”, Cherrie’s Mum said.
Cherrie (Left) with her Mum (Right)
This level of support is the cornerstone of Djarragun College, a place not just for education, but for cultural celebration, community and connection for First Nations students. Art & Hospitality Day provides one of the best opportunities for students, staff and families to bond over various traditional art forms, such as painting, clay art, jewellery making, and food decoration.
Building on this engagement, Cooee also opened up a delicious world of culinary arts, offering students like Tyson, who is studying hospitality, a chance to whip up and showcase his creations from the kitchen.
Tyson has a passion for crafting healthy dishes that are not just nutritious, but bring a smile to people’s faces, saying, “After school, I’d like to become a chef. My stepdad is a chef and he’s inspired me”.
Before joining the Djarragun community, Tyson moved high schools several times, but found it difficult to get the support he needed and struggled to feel a sense of belonging; a place that connected him to his teachers, peers and his Indigenous identity.
“Djarragun is better because it’s more interactive here and you get more help from the teachers,” Tyson says.
Tyson (middle) pictured with other Hospitality students
Hospitality classes aren’t just for aspiring chefs, they also cater to students like Loumaili, looking for creative outlets. Loumaili is a Year 11 Hospitality student from the Torres Strait Islands who has dreams of being a Mechanic, buying her own car and owning a home. She’s currently working towards her goals, completing her Automotive Certificates, but when she needs a break, she’s loves spending time in the kitchen at school.
“I really like creating and tasting different foods with my friends. Hospitality is fun,” says Loumaili.
Loumaili (right) with Djarragun College peers
Beyond the kitchen, student artwork took centre stage in the Student Art Exhibition, where colourful paintings, rich with traditional stories, brought the walls to life. Art Day is about more than showcasing student art, it’s about helping students find connection to their passions, their Indigenous roots and to one another, like Cherie who reconnected with her school community, or Tyson, whose chasing his dreams of becoming a chef. It’s these connections and shared experiences that make Art & Hospitality Day an essential part of Djarragun College – binding students to their culture and inspiring their futures.