First Nations knowledge inspires students in 2021 Indigital Minecraft Education Challenge

Students sitting around table in classroom using laptops

In 2020, more than 1,000 students from 31 schools took part in a pioneering Minecraft Education Challenge that encouraged them to explore local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural knowledge, histories, and language, then hone their digital skills by using Minecraft: Education Edition. The Challenge asked students to respond to the question: “How might we build sustainable schools, cities, towns or communities in 2030 using Indigenous science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM)?”

It was a huge success with students and teachers alike, and now Indigenous and non-Indigenous students from foundation to Year 10 are invited to participate in the 2021 Indigital Minecraft Education Challenge.

Anchored on this year’s National NAIDOC theme – Heal Country – and inspired by the Indigital Schools program, this Indigenous-designed Challenge is supported by Microsoft, Telstra Foundation, National Library of Australia, and the National NAIDOC Committee.

The 2021 NAIDOC theme is a call to protect Country – recognising that if we look after Country, Country will look after us. This year’s Challenge invites students to build their understanding of Country in Minecraft: Education Edition by recognising our past, understanding our present, and reimagining our future.

Using the Challenge resource library and supported by community Elders and teachers, students are asked to respond to the question: “How can we ‘Heal Country: Side by Side,’ and build more sustainable communities by embracing First Nations’ cultural knowledge and understanding of Country?”

By using Minecraft: Education Edition, to build a present-day representation of their local Country and their vision of the future, students can share their ideas about healing and caring for the land using traditional knowledge and build important digital skills.

Schools can now apply to be part of the 2021 Challenge – Heal Country: Side by Side. Registration is open until 30 July.

Jane Mackarell, senior executive at Microsoft Australia said, “For me, this Challenge is incredibly significant as it inspires young Indigenous students to connect to Country, their community, and their culture. By engaging with Minecraft: Education Edition and game-based learning through a cultural lens, students are taught critical thinking skills, introduced to new digital skills, and empowered to improve their literacy, particularly in areas where English may not be their first language. The Challenge also provides an opportunity for students to engage with inspiring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander role models like Mikaela and the Indigital team who are showing what is possible and helping students imagine their future.”

“I learned so much from the entries last year and cannot wait to see how schools respond to this year’s challenge and the  hugely important theme of NAIDOC week that recognises Country is inherent to our identity and sustains our lives in every aspect – spiritually, physically, emotionally, socially, and culturally.”

Last year, Queensland’s Kalkie State School won the Challenge for its richly detailed Minecraft: Education Edition project that envisaged what Bundaberg could look like in 2030 if it leveraged First Nations knowledge. Students worked with local Elders and teachers and then used their newly learned Cultural knowledge to create a sustainable digital world using Minecraft: Education Edition that was populated by Indigenous plant farms that use less fertilisers which in turn helps to protect the ocean and reef; drinks were flavoured using traditional bush foods;  feral animals were managed; and local petroglyphs that were removed in the 1970s were returned to a local cultural centre that also acted as an important repository of local knowledge, language, and culture.

Digital Technologies and STEM teacher at Kalkie State School Samantha Ephraims said she jumped at the opportunity to participate in the Challenge. She saw it as an extension of what she was already doing in the classroom, and an innovative way to embed Indigenous perspectives in digital learning.

“I wove it into the classrooms that came to visit me in the lab, but it also became part of lunchtimes and spare time, and kids were bringing me things and talking to each other. That was really important, giving the kids that time to talk with each other, not just to me. That really made the project continue to flow.”

“I hadn’t used Minecraft before so I was really surprised at how versatile the learning could be inside Minecraft. And what the students were able to create from their research and newfound knowledge.”

Indigital, which has been instrumental in the design of the 2021 Challenge, is Australia’s first Indigenous edutech company leveraging digital technology to accelerate learning, promote understanding and build skills that create a pathway for Indigenous people into the digital economy.

Indigital founder and CEO Mikaela Jade, said; “The work Kalkie State School, and students around the country, undertook last year was inspiring and I am confident we will achieve even more this year. The 2021 NAIDOC theme resonates so strongly with me – it’s critical for current and future generations that we protect Country, our lands, our waters, our sacred sites and our cultural heritage from exploitation, desecration, and destruction.

“This challenge provides an exciting opportunity for students across Australia to explore these issues with Elders in their local communities and then use that combination of First Nations knowledge and modern technologies to reflect what they have learned and share their ideas for a better future.”

The Indigital Challenge is open to and free for all Australian Primary and Secondary schools. To register your school for the Challenge and learn more, visit After registering schools will receive further information to get themselves ready to start the Challenge. 

In each category, one school will be selected as the winner and take home the major prize. Runners-up for each category will be selected for all States and Territories. This year’s categories include:

  • Best Minecraft World (Foundation to Year 6)
  • Best Minecraft World (Year 7 to Year 10)
  • Best Narrative (Foundation to Year 10)

Key dates:

  • 24 June 2021 – Registrations open! Registrations close 30 July 2021 at 5pm.
  • 19 July 2021 – Registered schools will receive access to the Indigital teacher training platform to begin the Challenge. The training takes approximately 5hrs to complete and must be completed by the 6 August 2021. Once the training is completed teachers can begin to deliver the Challenge in their classroom.
  • 10 September 2021 – Entries close. All participating schools need to upload their Minecraft worlds and narrative into the submission portal.
  • 15 September 2021 – Judging begins.
  • 17 September 2021 – Winners announced!