A primary school student uses computer program Minecraft
Image supplied by Indigital.

Today, the winners, finalists and state runners-up of the 2021 Indigital Minecraft Education Challenge were announced via a live-streamed event hosted by the National Library of Australia.

The Challenge, inspired by the Indigital Schools program, invited students from across Australia to explore the 2021 National NAIDOC theme of Heal Country by building a present-day representation of their local Country, alongside another representation of the same area sometime in the future, and the changes that might occur if we heal and care for Country.

This year marks the second iteration of the Challenge and saw more than 6500 students across 160 schools register, far exceeding expectations. An Indigital initiative, the Challenge is supported by Microsoft Australia, the Telstra Foundation, Xbox, the National Library of Australia and is nationally endorsed by the National NAIDOC Committee.

Mikaela Jade, Cabrogal woman, founder of Indigital, and creator of the Challenge, stated the entries were impressive and clearly demonstrated an understanding of what was being asked of the participants.

“There’s no doubt this year has been challenging for many students, teachers and parents so seeing how our future generations embraced the theme and knowing that this experience helped them through a trying time – even if just a little bit – is all we could ask for,” said Jade.

“It was wonderful to see submissions coming in from schools right across Australia, from Katherine in the Northern Territory to Bruny Island in Tasmania. We know many students had to shift to collaborating on entries while learning from home and that’s a remarkable level of dedication. The calibre of entries meant we didn’t have an easy time deciding who to award the prizes to – but that’s a good problem to have!”

“We hope this Challenge inspires more teachers and students to further explore Indigenous cultural knowledges, histories and languages through the use of new and emerging technologies,” concluded Jade.

Jackie Coates, CEO, Telstra Foundation said, “This is about inspiring our future digital creators, by connecting with the knowledge and wisdom of First Nations people and building critical STEM skills in a fun and innovative way.”

Tiffany Wright, Director for Education, Microsoft ANZ said, “I’m excited to see the fantastic winners from this years’ Indigital Minecraft Education Challenge. The Challenge starts the journey for educators and students to better understand Country, and the Indigital Schools program expands and sustains the learning within school systems across Australia. I am incredibly proud of Microsoft’s ongoing partnership with Indigital in education and look forward to the Challenge continuing to flourish in future years.”

As part of the live-streamed winners’ event, the first-prize recipient of the 2020 Minecraft Education Challenge in the category of Best Minecraft Education Edition World, Kalkie State School located on Gooreng Gooreng, Gurang, Taribelang and Bailai Country in Bundaberg, Queensland, presented its latest project which draws on the local Indigenous knowledge of the area. 

Samantha Ephraims from Kalkie State School explained her students were inspired to start the project following their involvement in the 2020 Indigital Challenge.

“Being a part of the Challenge last year sparked the students’ interest in the Indigenous history of our area. It was them who decided to address the lack of a First Nations seasonal weather calendar in Bundaberg,” said Mrs Ephraims. 

Now they are on a mission to collect as much information as possible about the surrounding animals and seasons.

“The aim is to one day present this weather map to the Bureau of Meteorology. It will be created by the kids, informed by local Elders, and checked off by the CSIRO. Maps of this kind are important as Australia’s climate is diverse and the European season calendar can’t realistically be applied to every region,” explained Mrs Ephraims.

John Paul Janke, co-chair, National NAIDOC Committee said, “What a fantastic initiative to be a part of – one that takes the next generation on a journey of discovery. Seeing the students embrace this program, asking questions we should all be asking, is so rewarding.”

Marie-Louise Ayres FAHA, Director General, National Library of Australia further commented, “It is inspiring to see this creative and innovative program grow, as it connects Australia’s future researchers to the cultural narratives and perspectives of First Australians in such a meaningful way.” 

Jane Mackarell, ANZ Surface Business Group Lead, Microsoft Australia said, “Congratulations to all the students and teachers who have taken part, particularly our amazing winners. The submissions have shone through and perfectly demonstrated the creativity and determination among educators and students.”

“This year’s theme of Heal Country was incredibly special, inviting us all to embrace First Nations’ cultural knowledge and understanding of Country as part of our heritage, and it was reflected in all of the extraordinary work from the students,” said Mackarell.

“This important initiative provides an opportunity to bring young Indigenous and non-indigenous Australians closer to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, history and language and learn new digital skills. I am once again delighted we are able to support the Challenge and the remarkable work of Australian schools, teachers, community and the team at Indigital,” concluded Mackarell.

Indigital, Microsoft Australia, the National Library of Australia, Telstra Foundation, and the National NAIDOC Committee congratulate the following schools on their outstanding entries. Indigital would also like to thank Xbox for its generous first-prize donations.

Prize Details

Tania Chee, Xbox Australia and New Zealand business lead, explained this year would see a significant first eventuate on the prizes front.

“The team at Xbox are honoured to support Microsoft’s partnership with this year’s Indigital Minecraft Education Challenge. It is the first time Xbox has worked with an Indigenous artist in Australia to create a limited-edition custom console and controller. The prizing has been wrapped in this year’s incredible National NAIDOC poster artwork created by Gubbi Gubbi artist Maggie-Jean Douglas,” said Chee.

The recipients of the limited-edition Xbox console and controllers will be the only two owners of the custom-designed systems in the world.

Maggie-Jean Douglas shared her thoughts on what this meant to her, as an artist.

“To say I’m excited about this opportunity is an understatement. I never thought my artwork would be on an Xbox! I know whoever wins the prize will deserve it. It’s so amazing what these kids have done in this challenge,” said Douglas.

Photos of artist Maggie-Jean Douglas are available here.

Images of the limited-edition Xbox console and controllers are available here.

List of Winners and Finalists

Best Minecraft World (Foundation to Year 6) – Prize: Limited edition custom Xbox Series X console + four controllers

  1. Winner: Bribie Island State School, QLD
  2. Finalist: Clyde Fenton Primary School, NT
  3. Finalist: Bruny Island District School, TAS
  4. Finalist: Lindisfarne North Primary School, TAS

Best Minecraft World (Year 7 to Year 10) – Prize: Limited edition custom Xbox Series X console + four controllers

  1. Winner: Salisbury North Primary School (Year 7), SA
  2. Finalist: Coreen School, NSW
  3. Finalist: Yirrkala School, NT
  4. Finalist: Tasmanian eSchool, TAS

Best Narrative (Foundation to Year 10) – Prize: Indigital Schools Program valued at $20,000 delivered in person

  1. Winner: Clyde Fenton Primary School, NT
  2. Finalist: St James Catholic College, TAS
  3. Finalist: St Brendan's Catholic Primary School, QLD
  4. Finalist: Bruny Island District School, TAS

The winning entries can be viewed here.

Indigital congratulates the state runners-up. A list of the runners-up can be viewed here.

Further information on judging criteria available here.

Quotes from Winning Schools

Winner of Best Minecraft World (Foundation to Year 6)
Lisa Anici, teacher from Bribie Island State School, QLD, Gubbi Gubbi Country said, “What our students enjoyed the most about this experience was making new friends by working together to problem solve; teaching each other new skills, such as design and coding; and all while learning about places of Indigenous cultural significance in our local area.”

Winner of Best Narrative (Foundation to Year 10)
Yasmin Brand, teacher from Clyde Fenton Primary School, NT, Jawoyn Country, said, “Learning how to integrate local Aboriginal values across a range of subject areas – including literacy, digital technology, history and geography – through the Indigital Minecraft Challenge, was invaluable and the kids had a blast!”

Contact Indigital for assistance sourcing a quote from the relevant teacher at Salisbury North Primary School, SA.

About the Indigital Schools Program

Indigital, Australia’s first Indigenous Edu-tech company, offers a meaningful pathway for Indigenous people into the digital economy and the creation of future technologies. The Indigital Schools program enables Indigenous and non-Indigenous students to connect with and learn from Elders about cultural knowledge, history and language, while learning digital skills in augmented and mixed realities, artificial intelligence, machine learning, internet of things and geospatial technologies. If you would like to know more about Indigital’s digital skills training program for primary and high school students, visit the website at indigitalschools.com.