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Youth engagement and performance through The Stars Project

A unique initiative connecting Torres Strait Islander youth with traditional arts and cultural activities, culminating with a performance at Bulmba-ja, Cairns. 



The Stars Project was an arts and education program designed to help foster a sense of achievement, confidence, inclusion and identity for an identified group of Torres Strait Islander youth from Tagai State College on Thursday Island.

The Stars Project created opportunities for the students to learn more about their cultural heritage and share their experiences through dance, music and visual arts, in sessions held over four months at Tagai State College and the Gab Titui Cultural Centre.

Torres Strait Islander artist Joey Laifoo, from Badu Island, conducted arts, culture, dance and storytelling sessions to help the students to build confidence, respect for themselves and others, and increase their knowledge about their culture, art, traditional dance and songs.

Joey and the students delivered performances for the Australian Air Force, the Island Stars Academy tourist show and at Bulmba-ja in Cairns. These shows provided the students with the opportunity to showcase their learnings.

The project was also designed to teach the students and wider Australian community about Torres Strait Islander [TSI] culture.



When and where

The Stars Project took place in 2021 at Tagai State College and Gab Titui Arts Centre on Thursday Island, culminating in performances in June 2021 in Cairns and on Thursday Island. 


Key stats

  • 9 students
  • 4 months
  • 250 attendees to performances 
  • 5 activities 
  • 6 Queensland artists/arts workers 
  • 4 new partnerships formed with organisations and individuals 
  • 100% survey respondents rated work as good/excellent

Arts Queensland investment 

$33,072 supported through the First Night Showcase Program – Bulmba-ja.

The First Night Showcase – Bulmba-ja aims to support independent artists and organisations, with a focus on First Nations Peoples, to activate Bulmba-ja in Cairns through developing and presenting new visual and performing arts works.

The program is part of the Queensland Government’s $22.5 million Arts and Cultural Recovery Package to stabilise Queensland’s arts companies, secure employment for artists and arts workers and deliver COVID-safe cultural experiences for Queensland audiences. 




  • Improved student behaviour, respect and involvement: Throughout the duration of project the students’ behaviour, respect and involvement significantly improved. The process helped instil a sense of identity, increased respect for self and peers, and a considerable improvement in manner. 
  • Showcasing of skills and knowledge: Students gained an understanding of the importance of what they were doing, participating in the passing down of knowledge from one generation to the next, and were excited and proud to be part of this important project.
  • Improvement in student’s health and wellbeing: Students developed a sense of achievement, confidence, inclusion and identity after participating in arts, culture, dance and storytelling workshops three times a week. 
  • Delivery of successful show at Bulmba-ja: The Stars Project was delivered at Bulmba-ja in Cairns and exceeded expected audience numbers. 100% of survey respondents rated the work as excellent and there were many community members who attended the show as first time audience members of Bulmba-ja.


Learnings and reflections

The Stars Project benefited Bulmba-ja art centre by raising awareness of the centre within the Cairns and surrounding communities. Many people in attendance at our performance were first-time visitors to the art centre and now have increased knowledge of the centre. A successful show was delivered that provided diversity from other previously showcased performances.

The funding greatly improved my ability to do something I am very passionate about and that is teaching people about my culture and Torres Strait Islander practices. It gave me an opportunity to work with some very special adolescents at Tagai College to help teach them culture, art and respect. It enabled me to help them develop confidence, a sense of identity and purpose towards their future. – Joey Laifoo

I believe the stronger we can help the next generation connect with their history and culture, the greater purpose and identity they have within all aspects of their lives. It provided my business the ability to showcase this program to Royal Australian Air Force, wider Australian public audiences and the Thursday Island community and I have received much feedback from Tagai State College and key stakeholders in the community for a program such as this to be run on a more permanent basis.  Joey Laifoo

The team at Bulmla ja was amazing Mr Love thank you so much. It was great to work with other artisst and the team at Bulmba-ja art centre were fantastic! This was Island Stars Academy first ever theatre show and the Tagai Students loved the experience. Joey Laifoo



Feedback and comments 

“Events like this are one of few ways to keep the culture present, so that the efforts made by our ancestors to pass our culture through generations will not be forgotten.” 

It was an amazing performance !

Thank-you for sharing your culture with us , loved every minute of it , so did my friends xx    - Facebook comment


Tips for others

The cost of flights was significantly more than what was allocated in our proposal.

We budgeted based on being able to purchase flights a few months in advance. It was unanticipated that the program would need to run for several weeks before students could be selected to attend the performance in Cairns. This coupled with the increased tourism to Torres Strait region this year meant that flights were greater than the proposed budget many months in advance.

This was an unforeseeable occurrence and a learning from the project. In future a greater budget for flights is necessary to allow time for students to engage in the project and display the qualities necessary for selection.

What next

The project organisers have received feedback from Tagai State College and key stakeholders in the community for a program such as this to be run on a more permanent basis.



Find out more

Laifoo Family Torres Strait Islander Arts facebook