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Meet The Winners of This Year’s Online Wakakirri Festival

Posted by Wakakirri | Nov 12, 2020

Who Won this Year’s Wakakirri Challenge – Australia’s Largest Inter-School Performing Arts Festival?


For many schools, a bright spot among lockdowns and virtual learning has been participating in this year’s online Wakakirri Story-Dance Festival. Established 28 years ago, the Wakakirri Challenge is an education program for schools that develops student engagement and wellbeing through participation in the performing arts. Primary, secondary and dance schools from the ACT, NSW, QLD, TAS, SA, VIC and WA have spent months creating and rehearsing their Story-Dances in order to compete against other schools in a bid to win the coveted National Story of The Year Award. Traditionally taking place in professional theatres across the country, this year’s festival was restructured into an online-only format due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Wakakirri’s National Panel has had the difficult task of choosing award winners from all of the amazing entries. Head member Kat Hoyos said of the challenge, “In a year like this one, it’s incredible that students and teachers have managed to create such solid stories and performances. Despite all of the unexpected obstacles this year, these Story-Dances are every bit as moving and inspiring as the ones performed in theatres at previous Wakakirri Festivals. Chookas to everyone who entered!” Kat was joined on the judging panel by Andrew McFarlane, Luke Carroll and Emma Watkins.

Schools competed against other primary or secondary schools from across the country in their challenge category, Story-Dance Video or Screen. Both categories emphasised story, creative movement and acting however the Screen Challenge also incorporates special effects and scenes shot in multiple locations. The Story-Dance Video Challenge is new at Wakakirri this year and was created as a way for schools to transition their planned live-performance to a filmed format.

Four schools have taken home the top prize in this year’s Wakakirri Challenge by each winning the National Award for Story of the Year.

The two Primary school winners were Whitefriars School from South Australia with a Story-Dance that explored the impacts of bushfires on community and Newtown North Public School from NSW with a Story-Dance that gave us some insight into Greta Thunberg’s Aspergers ‘super-power’.

The Secondary school winners, both of whom made their Wakakirri debut in 2020, were Daramalan College from the ACT with a colourful adaptation of Strictly Ballroom and The Ponds High School from NSW with a hilarious take on a day in the life of Wednesday from the Addams Family.


St Brigid’s Primary School of Kyogle in the Northern Rivers region of NSW have won the National Reconciliation Award at Wakakirri’s 2020 Story-Dance Festival. This award is supported by Reconciliation Australia and presented to the school whose Story-Dance best demonstrates the reconciliation principles of increasing respect, reducing prejudice or strengthening  relationships between the wider Australian Community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Making their Wakakirri debut, students at St Brigid’s Primary School in Kyogle, NSW have put together an award-winning submission for this year’s online Wakakirri Story-Dance Challenge and come away with the National Reconciliation Award for their Story-Dance, Bushfires Traditionally.

St Brigid’s Primary School used their Story-Dance to explore the role that Aboriginal land management traditions can play in preventing bushfires. Tessa Keenan, General Manager of the Narragunnawali: Reconciliation in Education team at Reconciliation Australia said of the performance, “ Bushfires Traditionally shares a local chapter in a nationally significant story of reconciliation. It’s a great demonstration of how the arts can help us to understand and engage with current events and issues, such as the bushfires of early 2020, that impacted many Australians. Developed in collaboration with the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, the performance pays respect to the diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledges, while uplifting the local perspectives on burning and land management practices. The high energy performance encourages all Australians to continue to respect and learn from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge systems and the people who continue to uphold them.”

Staines Memorial College from Redbank Plains, QLD was the runner-up for the National Reconciliation Award for their Story-Dance, My Culture and Me: Greg’s Story, which was inspired by a visit to the school by author Greg Dreise and was commended by the Narragunnawali team for “[celebrating] the importance of uplifting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices.”



Despite spending much of the year in isolation and out of class, Victorian schools have won big at the Wakakirri Challenge this year! At Australia’s largest performing arts festival for schools, Victoria achieved four Story of the Year nominations from a total of 18 finalists nationally with the inclusion of BAM Arts Inc from Frankston and 2 entries from Karen Feldman’s Dance School in Geelong and a further two other schools were recognised with Story Awards. All four schools were chosen for their well conceived performances and the relevant and important messages they explored in their Story-Dances such as gender, the environment and life in lockdown.

St Mary Mackillop Catholic Primary School, Bannockburn won the National Environment Award. This award recognises one school nationally for their use of sustainable practices in the creation of their Story-Dance. St Mary Mackillop Catholic Primary School, Bannockburn demonstrated their commitment to ‘Reduce, Reuse and Recycle’ stating; “Through our story-dance telling we were able to create an awareness and appreciation of an Australian native species, the Black-throated Finch, whose habitat is under real threat due to the mining industry of Australia. We shared the sustainable initiatives we made with our students and our wider community to celebrate the achievements we were able to make and to inspire others to take more care of our planet.”

Watch the Waka TV Announcement Here

Wakakirri will return to theatres nationally for the 2021 Story-Dance Challenge using a COVID-Safe format.

Performances take place in Term 3 and registrations are open now at wakakirri.com.

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