Young Voices ‘Shaping the Future’

Ollyvar Baker, Samara Kirkland and Jasmin Cole performing at the Festival (photos taken from video)

By Tracie McMahon

At Provocations, the Seven Valleys Festival of Big Ideas, local high school students, Ollyvar Baker, Samara Kirkland and Jasmin Cole, performed poetry that communicated the future they want to see.

Headlined Provocations, the Seven Valleys Festival of Big Ideas offered a program of speakers that would invite discussion and thought leadership on “shaping the future of the Seven Valleys.” Speakers included a CEO, a scientist, educators, businesspeople and high school students from the Blue Mountains and Lithgow.

The adult speakers spoke passionately of their experiences and desire to ensure that the Seven Valleys both flourish and are able to withstand the impacts of an increasingly unpredictable future. They then stepped aside to allow the voices of the young to be heard.

The prompt the schools had been given was “shape the future.”    

As Ollyvar Baker, a Wiradjuri student at Lithgow High School, spoke of what it felt like to be ‘Homesick’ in your own country, snow began to fall. Not one head turned to the window, with the audience unwilling to divert their attention from this powerful performance.   

Ollyvar’s piece drew a thunderous applause and was followed by a two-person reverse poem Writing our story written and performed by Samara Kirkland and Jasmin Cole of La Salle Academy.  A reverse poem is a poem that can be read from top to bottom and then bottom to top, with an opposite meaning. In this two-person reverse performance poem, each speaker stated the opposing position. The La Salle students’ work demonstrates the cumulative effect of negative and positive voices on our understanding of the world.

The final work was a whole-of-class presentation of Murmuration, by Kindle Hill School. Murmuration was a short film shown recently at Mt Vic Flicks. It invited the audience to experience how it feels to have your home destroyed and how forging meaningful connections can help heal some of the damage such destruction inflicts.

The Festival of Big Ideas provided an intergenerational platform to share and discuss ideas that will shape all our futures. It showed that by connecting and listening, we can learn together and create a future that is both inclusive and responsive to the needs of the community.

The Seven Valleys Festival of Big Ideas will be an annual event organised by the Greater Blue Mountains Creative Arts Network (BMCAN), as part of a planned annual Seven Valleys Arts and Cultural Festival. BMCAN organise many events across Lithgow and the Blue Mountains. Details of future events can be found at

This story has been produced as part of a Bioregional Collaboration for Planetary Health and is supported by the Disaster Risk Reduction Fund (DRRF). The DRRF is jointly funded by the Australian and New South Wales governments.

About Tracie McMahon

Tracie lives, writes and walks on the unceded lands of the Dharug, Gundungurra and Wiradjuri people. Born in Lithgow, she and her family have spent most of their lives living and working with the people and places of the Lithgow area. Her passions are nature and community, which she pursues through story, art, and volunteering in Lithgow and the Blue Mountains.

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