In November 2017, the Indigenous Digital Excellence (IDX) team hosted a careers and technology camp at the NCIE. Their mission was to inspire and inform participants about career opportunities and employment pathways around STEAM and IT.

The 28 participants – a mix of students from Grafton and South Grafton High Schools, teachers, community elders and mentors – were all part of IDX’s Flint program held in Grafton in August a few months earlier.

With support from Microsoft, the IDX team were able to bring the group back together again in Sydney for the five-day camp, so they could dig deeper into coding, culture, VR and see the latest in technology.

Culture & Coding Upfront:

On day one the participants received a Welcome to Country from Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council representative Joel Davison and a smoking ceremony and cultural performance by the Koomurri Dancers. This was a powerful introduction for everyone and it really set the tone for what was to come

They then dived into a full day of coding at the NCIE delivered by Code Club Australia in partnership with IDX.

The day covered a wide range of skill sets, which the IDX team sees as a great way to build capacity and confidence within the Grafton community. The engagement level of the young people in the six-hour workshop was outstanding.

Afterwards, they were taken for a walk up to The Block and told of the significance of the all the various sites around Redfern.

Wednesday morning was spent at the Australian Museum in the First Australians galleries, where the group learned about traditional Indigenous culture. This experience re-embedded the role of technology in Indigenous culture in the minds of the group, as Indigenous technological innovation is often overlooked in Western histories.

Then it was on to more coding at the Microsoft headquarters at North Ryde. Tianji Dickens from Microsoft Philathropies gave the group the site tour before they settled into a Coding for Culture workshop run by Brett Leavy. Brett uses VR to seek to recreate the Australia of his ancestors and embed the culture, language, artefacts and community into 3D VR experiences.

During Coding for Culture, participants learnt how to create a gaming platform and navigate through the platform.

Career Inspiration & More New Technology:

Thursday morning it was off for more info about career and tech at Salesforce.

Here, the group continued to develop their coding skills before hearing inspirational talks from Salesforce representatives regarding their own career pathways into the tech industry. This helped the group map out their own entry plans into potential careers.

Then it was on to the Microsoft Tech Summit at the ICC Sydney Exhibition Centre, where the participants met and talked with tech experts and got their hands on Microsoft’s emerging technologies such as HoloLens and VR.

This last day wound up aboard a Tribal Warrior cultural cruise on Sydney Harbour where Gumaroy Newman provided cultural dance, stories and yidaki.

After a week of cultural empowerment and hands on training in STEAM and IT, the Grafton group left Sydney inspired to drive their communities as young leaders.

We had the pleasure of watching a couple of the group who were disengaging from school, become completely engaged again once they could see a link between tech, culture and the future.

On the last day, one of those students thanked the team for the week, said he had learned so much, and asked, “Can we have another one of these camps, it was deadly!

IDX and Microsoft were also inspired by the outcome of this pilot camp and will build on this model for future camps in 2018.

The IDX Team