Woori combats youth crime with amazing national achievement
TWO months ago Woorabinda was a town in crisis.
There were daily break-ins, reports of vandalism and community concerns over a failure to address the real problems with children instead on a roundabout through the justice system.
Now the town is making national headlines, but this time it's for the right reason as they celebrate an enormous cultural achievement.
Following a crisis meeting in October, the community decided bringing culture back to the daily lives of Woorabinda's young was the way to combat the growing crime issues.
The solution was found in the town's dance troupe, which was started by Joe Adams in the late 1980s.
Woorabinda man and professional performer Andrew Toby told The Morning Bulletin the elders of the town rounded up the kids and teens straight away and took them to the corroboree grounds where they started to pass on the key lessons of the Kulgoodah Dancers: look, listen, learn and respect.
Andrew was invited to work with the dancers, bringing a range of professional skills he's also employed when working with the likes of Jessica Mauboy, Deborah Mailman, and Casey Donovan.
Dancers were chosen by elders and Steven Collins from the Red Cross, based on their performance in school and their respect for parents.
Offering this as a reward to the children doing well in the town was the aim of the troupe, with hopes those behaving badly would be attracted by the rewards Kulgoodah offered.
After an intense two-month training period, the Kulgoodah Dancers were ready for their biggest test: performing at the Sydney Opera House in a national competition.
Dance Rites is part of the Opera House's annual Homeground celebration of First Nations music, art and culture.
Roughly 18 groups performed in the competition, representing every state and territory.
Performing in front of thousands with the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge in the background, the dancers were greeted with a roaring crowd.
On being announced as the winners, some dancers cheered while others wept with joy, collapsing to the ground.
The win comes with more than just the glory of a monumental achievement and a cheque for $20,000; it is a rejuvenation for the town as a whole.
That money will give every dancer a payment for the performance and allow the troupe to build a fund for travelling in the future.
And Kulgoodah won't stop with Dance Rites either.
On Tuesday, they got a phone call asking if they would perform at the opening ceremony of the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games next year.
Damien Watson, a spokesperson for the group, has been with Kulgoodah from their inception and said he had been "corroboreeing from the day I could walk and I'm 42 now”.
"Throughout the years he (Kulgoodah founder Joe Adams) has taught us to respect our elders and the main focus we want to teach our children is culture to keep it going strong,” Damien said.
"One day I would like to sit back in amongst the audience as well and enjoy them performing for me.
"I want it to live and live and live and live.”
Damien has lived in Woorabinda his whole life, and this is one of the happiest pieces of news he has seen delivered to the town.
"The feeling, no words can explain how we felt,” he said.
"We are over the moon about it.
"We're going to start getting into practising and get into it straight away.
"Hopefully it will be a new year and things will change for the better.”
Already, Damien believes Kulgoodah is helping break the cycle of crime in Woorabinda, with many people now wanting to be involved.
"It's sort of waking them up now,” he said.
"They want to be a part of the good things that are happening now.
"It's lifting our community up. We are still dealing with the problem at the same time we are trying to bring some good news.”
For Andrew, brining culture back to the town has improved the community "tenfold”.
"It's definitely been a blessing to the community, this achievement,” he said.