At only 17, Aboriginal student, Lailah Baba, is a talented young rising star who dances, acts and sings.
She started dancing at only 3 and loves to see people’s eyes light up when she performs.
Starting out life somewhat shy, Lailah soon discovered her talents in singing and acting and blossomed in confidence, going on to discover her own identity and place in society as a young Aboriginal woman.
With the start of NAIDOC Week this Sunday as a reminder to us all, Lailah wants to speak out on the importance of understanding and celebrating Aboriginal culture – not only due to its enriching qualities, but also due to its impact on creating a more cohesive and unified Australian society.
She says, “I’m proud to be Aboriginal and I want to share that with the world,” she says. “I hope my performances can help people connect with our culture in a positive way.
“Representation in the media is also so important. When Aboriginal people are represented in the media, it’s often inaccurate and negative. They’re often depicted as angry.
We absolutely need more positive depictions of our culture and our people.”
Recent statistics from a 2018 study by Reconciliation Australia found that 50% of those surveyed from an Aboriginal background believe that the media portrayal of First Nations people is usually negative – yet 47% of people surveyed from a non-Indigenous background believe the media represents a balanced representation of Aboriginal people.
A performing arts education
Lailah attends Holy Spirit Catholic College, Lakemba, part of the Sydney Catholic Schools parent brand, where she is one of many student performers from an Aboriginal or culturally diverse background.
At her school, she is encouraged to tell her cultural story and develop her self-expression in creative ways – whether it’s as part of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Dance Ensemble (Murrawadeen Goodjarga), or as lead in SCS’ Arts HQ Performing Arts Ensemble.
In addition, with singing, dancing, performing and other visual arts have a longstanding history in Aboriginal culture, these mediums offer the perfect opportunity for her to share the wisdom of First Nations narratives and themes – and to encourage the world to understand and embrace these perspectives.
Lailah recently performed at the Catholic Mission and Catholic Religious Australia’s Mission: One Heart Many Voices (MOHMV) conference, performing a powerful group piece on the importance of inclusivity and the importance of seeing more Indigenous faces in Parliament – another opportunity to explore key social issues through the arts.
She attributes her school to providing her with a variety of performing arts and cultural development opportunities that allowed her to discover her true self and assert her identity.
Jane Bridges, Supervisor: Student Wellbeing Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander at Sydney Catholic Schools says, “Recognising, respecting and honouring the unique culture of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in our community is vital – and this all starts in our classrooms and on our assembly hall stages.
When people are exposed regularly to Aboriginal history, voices and particularly the arts from a young age, their cultural awareness grows – and this is essential in helping them come to see the world through a First Nations perspective, fostering social inclusion.”
She adds, “from the Aboriginal student murals and artwork at Sydney Catholic Schools, to our performing arts Murrawadeen Goodjarga program, to our partnerships with Aboriginal organisations which offer smoking ceremonies, artwork, and further dance and drama opportunities, we believe such cultural initiatives are key to increasing social understanding – and if applied to all schools, could have a strong positive impact on young people everywhere.”
Lailah is soon to train full-time at esteemed performing arts school, Ettinghausens, and wants to pursue a long-term career in the arts, as well as continue to advocate for more Aboriginal voices in the field.
Sydney Catholic Schools is the system of 147 Catholic primary and secondary schools operating across the Archdiocese of Sydney providing more than 70,000 students with a high-quality, affordable Catholic education.
Their dedicated and hard-working educators deliver a strong faith-based education, catering for students with all interests and abilities.