On 14 October 2018, at the invitation of Ms Mickey McKellar, I moderated a session of the Ignite Your Mind Festival in Ayr with the author and journalist Chris Masters focused on his book No Front Line: Australia’s Special Forces at War in Afghanistan.
This was the first time I had attended or participated in the BRW Festival, but I certainly plan to do so again.
I was reared in North Queensland, but spent 40 years (1976-2016) serving in the Australian diplomatic service before returning to North Queensland to take up my appointment as Chancellor of my alma mater, James Cook University, from March 2016.
I was greatly impressed by the standard of the BRW festival – by the high quality of the writers participating and of the festival arrangements.
The whole event is a great credit to all involved and a significant contribution to the intellectual and cultural life of our region and State.
I commend it highly.
Bill Tweddell – Chancellor – James Cook University
I wish to formally express my support of the Burdekin Readers’ and Writers’ Association’s (BRWA) valuable cultural initiative, Ignite Your Mind Burdekin Readers’ and Writers’ Festival.
Over the past four years, I have been privileged to have the opportunity to participate in the festival and associated initiatives. As an Academic Leader (English) I was fortunate to be able to immerse my students in a unique cultural experience, exposing them to a world of literature and authors which they would otherwise not have the opportunity to engage with.
Annually, feedback from the students who attend the Festival and participate in workshops is hugely positive. For many students, this is their only involvement in such activities. The festival has been a catalyst for many school-based initiatives including the establishment of a literature club, students writing narratives in their own time and the introduction if new texts worthy of classroom study.
As students from a rural setting, opportunities like this are unobtainable without the initiative of community groups like BRWA. Hosting the Ignite Your Mind Burdekin Readers’ and Writers’ Festival within our local community promotes inclusivity and ensures that students in rural and regional communities are helped to overcome the disadvantage they suffer because of their geographical location.
On a personal note, I relish the opportunity to engage with our community members in supporting this wonderful event. It is my sincerest hope this festival will continue to ignite the minds of young readers and writers alike, within the North Queensland region
Kelli Loizou – English Academic Leader
I’m writing in support of the Burdekin Readers and Writers Festival and its dedicated and hardworking Committee.
The Burdekin Readers and Writers Festival (BRWF) offers our community an excellent opportunity to engage in activities that stimulate thought, inspire creativity, appreciate literature and excite aspirations.
The festival has established itself as a significant event on the regional calendar and engages a wide range of participants and followers.
From the school’s perspective, the festival enhances student engagement and adds value to the work that occurs in the classrooms each and every day.
The children love hearing from inspirational people that have made their passion a career. This excites possibilities and opens up thoughts and opportunities that may not have existed before.
This year we were able to build on this feature of the event by incorporating a Writers Workshop for the school children as well as offering key note presentations.
Through close collaboration with the organising committee, we were able to pair a suitable author with a motivated group of learners to extend their current understanding of the writing process and to influence their creative talents.
The results of this process have been outstanding. We had excellent engagement during the session and many of the students who attended are still writing and crafting work that they are sharing with our school community.
I am a strong supporter of the Burdekin Readers and Writers festival as I get to experience and benefit from its influence each and every day. The teachers, students and parents in my school community appreciate the event and the opportunities that it presents. I’m looking forward to further engagement with the BRWF committee to strengthen outcomes for the children of the Burdekin District.
Chris Wicks – Principal
Fire Starters – How to be an Agent of Change
The Burdekin Readers and Writers Festival – the content, the context and the contributors all converge, creating a uniquely “Burdekin” experience.
On Friday, 12 October, Burdekin Catholic High School hosted Warren Mundine, author of Warren Mundine in Black + White. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from Burdekin Catholic High School and Ayr State High School attended this workshop session. “Warren’s vision for Australia and for its First Nations is one of pride, prosperity and optimism.” A touchstone for all and inspiration for upcoming Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth – the leaders and Elders of tomorrow.
Once again, the breadth and depth of participating authors reflected the Festival organisers’ determination to offer a range of literary experiences. In 2016, Burdekin Catholic High School partnered with the Burdekin Readers and Writers Festival in hosting Lesley and Tammi Williams who shared their stories, encapsulated in their autobiographical, Not Just Black and White. Their presentation to BCHS Year 11s and Indigenous students from the High Schools challenged and inspired.
This year we focussed on capacity-building opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youths in this workshop: Pride, Prosperity & Optimism – How to be an Agent of Change. Warren took students on a journey from his country beginnings, through Marist Brothers’ schooling, trade training, tertiary studies to his life of influence in business and politics. Warren also drew on his Aboriginal identity, country town childhood, Catholic education and city opportunities to encourage us all.
“The workshop was a good insight into how Warren progressed through his school life and coped with many different challenges. It helped us because it shows that if you work hard in school you can achieve great things. It definitely was a valuable opportunity for high school students because being students who are stepping out into the real world, it gave us some knowledge on ways to overcome challenging experiences.” commented Takia-May Solomon, Year 11 Student at B.C.H.S..
Although committed to our small-town community, we are not confined to a ‘small-town mindset’. We are a part of something bigger – I want kids from the Burdekin to experience that, whether they stay or leave here, or like me leave and follow their calling to come home.
Ignite Your Mind!
Fiona Scott – Indigenous Education Teacher
Firstly thank you for providing our students with the opportunity to workshop with a quality author like Oliver Phommavanh. Our students have developed a real love for writing and were thrilled to have a chance to further their skills. I want you to know that we really appreciate that you were able to secure Mr Phommavanh to come to our school. Had this not been possible, our students would have missed out as the cost of transport to another venue would have been prohibitive to most of our students’ families. Students and teachers have commended the workshop as practical, useful and entertaining. I think you would agree that harnessing a love of the written word can only benefit our students throughout their education and further lives.
On a more personal note, please pass on my thanks and congratulations to all those involved in the Festival. I attended every session I could, even foregoing weekend sleep-ins. As a teacher of literature and literacy I found the whole festival both inspiring and informative. The broad range of genres represented, the quality of authors and ease of access to the authors was beyond my expectations.
Thank you again and I look forward to the next Burdekin Readers Writers Festival with eagerness.
Anastasia Tyler – Master Teacher
Reflecting on your outstanding Festival, it strikes me that you have got several things very much right. First, the size. I am sure there is a critical mass below which festivals like this won’t work. But I suspect there is also an upper limit, which has been exceeded by literary festivals in the capital cities, beyond which it is difficult to get the conversations going, both between presenters, and between presenters and guests, and between guests. The thing is simply too big.
The second factor is the relaxed atmosphere and the format which allows people to mix and mingle. Lots of discussion and interchange rather than lectures. And the very welcoming approach of the many people from your community who attended. And your superlative hospitality, in all respects.
Third, the organisation was very expert. Lots of helpers with orange scarves, who knew exactly what was happening and how to help. Superior coffee.
Thank you for a great experience.