The First Indigenous Game Jam Kicks Off In November

Using the kulap seed (also known as the matchbox bean or QLD Bean), Kulap is a game that has been played forever on the Torres Strait Islands. Now, Kulap is being used to teach kids how to code.

This is a first for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander game, but it won't be the last - with the first Indigenous Game Jam set to be held in November.

Australia's "Indigenous Business Accelerator Program", Barayamal, created the coding game to support First Nations' kid's career aspirations in technology.

"We've been running coding programs for a while, but I was looking for another way to engage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth to teach them how to code so they can build programs and technology themselves," explains Dean Foley, Founder at Barayamal.

"A couple of days ago, I was talking with Cecelia Wright who's from Thursday Island, and she mentioned kolap, which is a traditional game played in the Torres Strait."

After talking with Wright, Foley jumped onto his laptop and built the game on MIT Scratch. Now, the game will be used to teach Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids exactly how he did it, and how they can develop programs and technology to promote their culture.

This is just the beginning, too.

Foley has already started creating more coding games from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Games games with the help of Wright and permission from Elders. To make sure this really takes off, Barayamal is running the first Indigenous Game Jam - a charity hackathon made up of programmers, designers and entrepreneurs, working together to create games that help get more Indigenous youth into coding and technology.

So why is this necessary?

Around 75 per cent of jobs in the future will need STEM skills, but coding is still not a formalised part of the curriculum in most parts of the education system. Teaching kids coding is the first step in helping them get ready for jobs of the future - and make sure Indigenous students don't get left behind. Teaching Indigenous youth about coding so they understand how computers work and the best ways to interact with them is how we can stop the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians from increasing.

According to a recent study by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, more than half (53 per cent) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were aged under 25 years in 2016. Also, Indigenous unemployment is a national crisis at 21 per cent, an increase of 4.3 percentage points since 2008, and is 4 times the current non-Indigenous unemployment rate of 5 per cent.

However, Australia's digital economy is projected to be worth $139 billion a year by 2020 that can provide business or employment opportunities for Indigenous Australians, but its growth is inhibited by a skills shortage, according to the most recent study from Deloitte Access Economics and The Australian Computer Society. Also, the average weekly full-time earnings before tax for Software and Applications Programmers in 2014 was $1,613 while the average earnings for all occupations were $1,200.

Foley points out that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth have the potential to achieve anything they set their minds to, and with support from CoderDojo First Nations, we might see the next big Indigenous Tech Entrepreneur sooner than later.

"Coding is the language of computers that control most things these days including phones and cars. Our mission is to inspire and empower Indigenous youth with coding skills, confidence and opportunities to achieve their dreams and create a better world for all who live in it."

Barayamal was founded in November 2016 by Foley, who saw that the high-growth, high-impact solution to closing that gap is to empower Indigenous entrepreneurs to create employment and community solutions that make a real difference.

In the last almost-2-years, it has established the CoderDojo First Nations coding clubs and a Budding Entrepreneurs Program, supporting Indigenous business innovators to develop their ideas and take them to market.


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