Gympie school changes hearts and minds, wins $1000 award
A SHORT film focusing on the hospitality skills of senior Gympie Special School students has won a prestigious state award for the Gympie Flexible Learning Centre.
FLC's moving 10-minute film High Abili Tea was awarded the $1000 NOVA Employment Choice Award at this week's Focus on Ability Short Film Festival for being the Queensland school that best represented the festival's theme of inclusion.
The festival, which asks filmmakers to focus on the ability of people with a disability, was hosted at a screening event for friends and family of the filmmakers at Rydges South Bank in Brisbane on Monday.
Gympie Flexible Learning music and media youth worker Ande Foster said the win was a huge thrill for all involved.
Mr Foster said 13 of the school's media group students and three staff members were involved with the project along with 14 students and four staff members from Gympie Special School.
"We are so happy to win this award and we're thrilled for the students who worked on the project," he said.
"I can't think of a better way to change hearts and minds than by making film."
Mr Foster said High Abili Tea, which revolved around the Special School senior cohort planning, cooking and serving a high tea, relied on students from both schools getting to know and understand each other first.
"Our schools are on the opposite sides of Gympie State High but our students hadn't had much to do with the Special School students before and wanted to take this opportunity to meet with them," he said.
"Both of our schools suffer from a certain stigma of people judging us before they know us, so there was a high level of understanding among the students from the start.
"They went through the paces of getting to know each other through doing some games and ice breakers and then finding out how the Special School runs.
"And they discovered the Special School has a really strong focus on hospitality - some of the senior class have finished Cert II in hospitality so they have a pretty high level of skill.
"So we decided to not just do a catering gig but to do something fancy and do a high tea.
"The Special School students did all the cooking, then we filmed it."
Mr Foster said the Flexible Learning Centre team attended the film festival screening in Brisbane on Monday night and watched all the other entries.
"Some were incredibly moving and when we were announced as the winners everyone was a little bit stunned and completely elated," he said.
"This project was more about young people getting on with other young people.
"Both our school and the Gympie Special School are different (to other schools) and our students feel people on the outside don't know what goes on in our schools.
"This was one way of showing what we're all about.
"We're really proud of the film and we loved working with the Special School students."
Equally proud is Gympie Special School senior co-ordinator Alison Huth who said the short film project involved the senior cohort of 14 students aged 15-17.
"The big thing we wanted to highlight with them was their ability to work together," Mrs Huth said.
"They didn't complain - they just got in and did it.
"We did a lot of planning with the Flexible Learning students, but all of the cooking was the work of our students."
As the camera rolled, the Special School students whipped up a delicious - and gargantuan - storm of high tea delicacies including cupcakes, muffins, scones, sausage rolls and biscuits, which they then served to staff from the two schools.
"Our students worked well together, doing the things they do really well - working together in a caring way, accepting one another as they are and helping out where they need to... and putting their cooking skills to use," Mrs Huth said.
"They produced all this food in no time at all.
"They did everything themselves, from working out what colours they wanted and what food they wanted to cook.
"I think it was really constructive for our students to see the skills and abilities of the Flexible Learning students and vice versa."
"I was amazed by how confident our students were with the Flexible Learning students and I was blown away by how the Flexible Learning students understood and cared for our kids."
In a true show of generosity, the Gympie Flexible Learning Centre filmmakers will share the $1000 prizemoney with their new Gympie Special School friends.
FCL will put their half of the winnings towards the production of a short, supernatural horror film while the Gympie Special School students will put their share towards a basketball backboard as well as hosting a morning tea for potential hospitality employers.
Nova Employment CEO Martin Wren said the Focus on Ability Film Festival was a constant source of amazement to him.
"I don't think, as a person, you can fail to be impressed and inspired after taking 10 minutes to see a couple of the FOA films," Mr Wren said.
"FOA changes attitudes about people with disability and this is important to me because it's the first step towards an inclusive society," he said.
NOVA Employment is a not-for-profit disability employment agency funded by the Australian Government.