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Cairns dance teacher recognised on national stage

HANNA SLOAN

CAIRNS dance teacher Caitlin Sands has been recognised for her work with First Nations students, receiving the Regional, Remote and Rural Bursary and the Osmotherly Dance Educator Award 2024.

The Osmotherly Award honours dance educators whose outstanding work has made a significant impact on dance education in Queensland, earning them recognition at a state, national and/or international level.

Ms Sands is a passionate educator who lives and breathes dancing, from growing up attending two local dance schools simultaneously, to opening her own dance studio at the age of 21, and running it while also teaching full time at Trinity Bay State High School.

The dedicated educator was spotted by the Ausdance Educators Chair at Creative Generation 2023, where she travelled with two Woree State School students who had been selected to join the First nations Dance Company, a select group of eight dancers chosen from statewide auditions.

The students, the only primary school-aged dancers in the company, later danced as part of an ensemble 100 Indigenous students.

Winning the Regional, Rural and Remote bursary included flights, accommodation, and tickets for Ms Sands to attend the two-day Queensland Dance Education Conference 2024, held in May at the Queensland Ballet’s Thomas Dixon Centre.

The Osmotherly Award is a prestigious statewide recognition named after Robert Osmotherly, a pioneer in the dance educator training space at Queensland University of Technology (QUT).

It was presented to Ms Sands in acknowledgement of her significant work in the First Nations dance space.

“I have been fortunate to work in schools with large percentages of Indigenous students and feel deeply embraced and cared for by the community,” Ms Sands said.

“Together with my students and their families, we have achieved some amazing things, including school dance concerts with the whole community and successful regional eisteddfod entries with references to culture.

“It is important to me to protect, promote and celebrate my students and their culture, especially in dance.”

AusDance Educators Queensland Chair Helen Mullins said that Ms Sands’ contribution to dance education in Queensland was outstanding.

“Your commitment to advocacy of First Nations perspectives has been evidenced through your mentorship of students in both your school and local community context, as well as for the state-wide Creative Generation State Schools Onstage production,” Ms Mullins said.

Ms Mullins went on to commend Ms Sands on her passion for creating and supporting opportunities for students to build their knowledge of and celebrate their cultural dance.

“Your developing and ongoing work in this space makes you a very worthy recipient of this award,” she said to Ms Sands.

Caitlin sands received the osmotherly dance educator award for 2024
Caitlin Sands received the Osmotherly Dance Educator Award For 2024 at QDEC2024

Ms Sands holds a Bachelor of Arts, a postgraduate Honours degree in Arts with distinction, and a postgraduate diploma in secondary education, and is currently studying a postgraduate certificate in Indigenous Studies.

She has also been appointed Coordinator for First Nations Dance at Creative Generation 2024.

“The future of First Nations dance is very bright,” she said.

“I hope to always be an advocate and support for my students in dance.

“The award also honours the invisible workload I experience as a dance teacher in state schools, which I’m so grateful to receive. The bursary meant I could attend the conference in Brisbane and connect with peers and industry professionals to learn and develop more as an educator.

“As a regional teacher, sometimes opportunities for professional development in Cairns have been limited. I feel so grateful for the experience.”

Keep up with the latest news in Cairns and the Far North, and check out some of our top stories this week: Concerns over social media’s impacts and One-man show hits the road.

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