Educating through performance

Parkes’ Jack Thomson - currently in the middle of his third year studies at Bathurst’s CSU – has returned from a trip to East Timor where he was part of a select group of students chosen to educate East Timorese villagers through performance.

With limited communication and media resources available to the villages, the student’s role was to take a theatre-style approach of providing information to farmers of the region.

Of particular importance was for the village farmers to learn of ways of becoming more sustainable by producing higher yielding crops.

“This was achieved through a community theatre forum style approach using music, dance and play,” Jack said.

Jack is undertaking a Bachelor of Communications (Theatre/Media) degree and was one of an 11-member student group to travel to Timor Leste working for the East Timorese Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) and the Seeds of Life (SoL).

Seeds of Life is a program within the Timor Leste Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) and funded collaboratively by MAF and the Australian Government, through the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR).

The Centre for Legumes in Mediterranean Agriculture (CLIMA) within the University of Western Australia (UWA) is commissioned to coordinate the Australian-funded activities.

“During our visit we went to several villages to perform and spread the news,” Jack said. 

“We performed to more than 1000 people where there may have been only 30 one day and more than 300 the next.”

“We finished the tour by performing for the Minister of Agriculture.

“From the feed-back gained through surveys, we have now been informed that meetings are now taking place to adopt local theatre groups in East Timor to carry on our work.”

Jack said that everywhere they went the party was received with total enthusiasm.

“We also performed in schools teaching Australian songs, circus tricks and games.

“Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the cultural experience.

“Performing for these disadvantaged communities was a humbling experience for all within the group and gave us a brief insight into the world around us.

“It also indicated to us what directions we could take to help ourselves by assisting others in the future.

“It was certainly a very different experience to that undertaken last year when I travelled to Bolivia to teach children for a theatre group in La Paz,” he said.

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