Indigenous youth can now learn to code through a traditional game

| August 15, 2018

Australia’s Indigenous Business Accelerator Program, Barayamal, has created the first coding game based on a traditional Indigenous pastime, which will be used to teach Indigenous youth how to code and help progress their 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. 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,” explained Dean Foley, the Founder at Barayamal.

“So after talking with Cecelia, I jumped onto my laptop and built the game on MIT Scratch, which will now be used to teach Indigenous youth how I did it and how they can build programs and technology to promote their culture too.”

“I’ve started created more coding games from Traditional Indigenous games with the help of Cecelia and permission from Elders, and to speed things up, Barayamal is running the first Indigenous “Game Jam”, which is a charity hackathon that will be made up of programmers, designers and entrepreneurs who will be working together to create games that help get more Indigenous youth into coding and technology.”

What is kolap?

The game Kolap (or Kulap) is a traditional game that is played throughout the Islands in the Torres Strait among the young and old. The kulap seed is actually known as a matchbox bean or QLD Bean in Far North QLD but in the Torres Straits, they are called Kulaps.

This game is based on using the natural resources available to Torres Strait Islanders whilst having fun and keeping everyone entertained. As an Early Childhood Inclusion specialist, Cecelia also suggested using bean bags when re-creating this game to play with children as an interactive activity.

The opportunity

It is estimated that 75 percent of jobs in the future will require STEM skills, however, coding is still not a formalised part of the curriculum in most parts of the education system. Teaching youth coding is the first step in helping students get ready for jobs of the future and ensure that Indigenous students don’t get left behind. Teaching Indigenous youth about coding so they understanding 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%) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were aged under 25 years in 2016. In addition, Indigenous unemployment is a national crisis at 21%, an increase of 4.3 percentage points since 2008, and is 4 times the current non-Indigenous unemployment rate of 5%.

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. In addition, 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.

Founder of Barayamal, Dean Foley said 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.”

About Barayamal

Barayamal was born out of Founder Dean Foley’s desire to reduce the disparity gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. He 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.

He founded Barayamal, Australia’s first Indigenous business accelerator, in November 2016, and since then the organisation has established many valuable programs, from the CoderDojo First Nations coding clubs, to its Budding Entrepreneurs Program, supporting Indigenous business innovators to develop their ideas and take them to market.

With over 50% of the First Nations population in Australia under 25 years old, Indigenous youth are enthusiastically looking for business opportunities to achieve success, break the poverty cycle, and be in a position to give back and create a better world for everyone. Barayamal aims to support them on that journey.