Malpa Performing Arts Program at Good to Great Schools Australia

Written by Louise

November 1, 2023

The Malpa Performing Arts program resonates with Indigenous students because it represents their personal expression in performance as they engage in the arts in their schools. Students draw upon their ancient cultural traditions and their contemporary learning and experiences through a ‘best of both worlds’ engagement in the arts.

The program has three parts:

Musical theatre

E = mc2– The Musical is a one-hour musical that improves students’ science education outcomes and love of learning. It is designed for delivery as part of the Good to Great Schools Australia (GGSA) Oz-e-science curriculum.

Musical theatre provides an opportunity for students to improve self-confidence and to participate in music education, while engaging the entire school community in a shared creative endeavour.

E = mc2– The Musical is the family engagement component of Good to Great Schools Australia’s Oz-e-science Physics curriculum. Incorporating music, acted scenes, dance and science experiments, it is delivered as a schoolwide performance involving every student. Students and their families are also involved in pre-production activities such as making costumes and props.

The musical expands students’ understanding and appreciation of physics and provides engaging opportunities for scientific learning. Delivered at Cape York Aboriginal Australian Academy for the first time in 2020, the musical helps to strengthen learning and education bonds for students and their families.

Slam poetry

Slam poetry is a form of performance poetry that combines elements of performance, writing, competition, improvisation and audience participation. Slam poetry is a component of GGSA’s Oz-e-writing curriculum.

Slam poetry is a component of GGSA’s Oz-e-writing curriculum. A form of performance poetry, slam poetry combines the elements of performance, writing, competition, improvisation and audience participation.

It is performed at events called poetry slams, or simply, slams. The name ‘slam’ derives from the audience’s power to praise or critique a poem in the real-time presence of the poet, and from its signature high-energy performance style.

The Malpa Performing Arts Program and Oz-e-writing each include a curriculum framework based on traditional and contemporary poetry styles and a program for the teaching and performance of poetry.

Music for Learning

Music for Learning is a program encompassing music theory, instrumental music and choir for primary school students from Foundation to Year 6. Music for Learning currently operates weekly in the Cape York Aboriginal Australian Academy as part of its school curriculum. Objectives include; that students learn about music, singing and musicianship through practice, theory and history, master a musical instrument, sing in a choir, cultivate their talent through routine practice and performance and progress with music into high school.

Partnerships are fundamental to the Music for Learning program, with organisations such as the Queensland Symphony Orchestra, Queensland Music Festival and the National Music Teacher Mentoring Program providing professional support to school music teachers and providing students with new performance opportunities. Students of the Music for Learning program have enjoyed several enrichment and performance opportunities, including performing at the Sydney Opera House and training with artists such as jazz musician James Morrison AM and Yothu Yindi’s Ben Hakalitz.

Why malpa?

When the High Court handed down its Wik decision in 1996, Wik woman Gladys Tybingoompa (pictured above) was featured prominently in the media, exultantly dancing her people’s malpa outside the High Court.

For the Wik Mungkan people of Cape York, malpa is a secular entertaining traditional performance that interweaves story, music, dance. Malpa describes the joyous act of artistic expression through performance.


Indigenous children, especially those in remote schools, commonly experience limited access to artistic development compared to non-Indigenous students in major centres. When engagement is offered, it tends to be through ad hoc activities that offer little long term impact. There are few opportunities for remote and regional communities to engage with the arts unless they travel long distances. The Music for Learning program provides a platform to redress this imbalance.


•   Self-confidence and presentation skills

•   A medium for self-expression

•   Empathy and compassion

•   Cultural awareness and appreciation

•   Physical and personal development

•   Improved academic outcomes and engagement in school

•   Strengthened culture

•   Greater resilience and adaptability

The Pelletier Project

The Pelletier Project is a new theatre in education show, exploring themes of intercultural tolerance, resilience and belonging. The play recounts the extraordinary true story of Narcisse Pelletier, a French sailor who was abandoned as a 14 year old on a Cape York Peninsula beach in 1858. Critically ill and left to die, he was taken in and nursed back to health by a family of local Kawadji people. Pelletier lived happily with the local people for seventeen years, marrying and fathering three children. In 1875, he was found by European pearlers, and taken back to Europe against his will.

This show is being developed in conjunction with the students of Coen, with the intention to tour to other schools and communities.

The Epic Story of the Guugu Yimithirr Peoples

The Epic Story of the Guugu Yimithirr Peoples is a live theatrical performance bringing together students of Hope Vale with their teachers, families, Elders, language experts, musicians and professional theatre artists in an intergenerational act of celebration. It will be presented on country in Hope Vale before playing to festival audiences around Australia.

Using poetry, dance, theatre and song, in English and Guugu Yimithirr, the show explores the rich history of the Guugu Yimithirr peoples, exploring the key questions: ‘Who we are; Where we came from and Where we are going.’ The greater aim of this work is to preserve, maintain and evolve the Guugu Yimithirr language and culture for future generations.

Download the Malpa Performing Arts program brochure here.

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