Planting the seeds of reconciliation

 In News

Julian Laffan and St Bede’s Primary School in Braidwood have been working with the Narragunnawali: Reconciliation in Schools team to develop our new national School RAP model. For more information on how your school can develop a RAP, visit our Narragunnawali: Reconciliation in Schools website.

St Bede’s Primary School in Braidwood has been developing a greater awareness of local Aboriginal language and culture in our region and to celebrate knowledge about Aboriginal Australia with energy and enthusiasm. We have developed closer relations with local Munkata Yuin People, recognising their ongoing presence in the local area. Staff at the school recognise the value of local Indigenous knowledge.

In 2013, the Year 5/6 children created a collaborative lino print depicting traditional and current technologies that they perceived as significant to Aboriginal people and the reconciliation movement. Traditional spears and a boomerang representing a prominent landmark, Mt Gillamatong, sit alongside an iPad. Linkages between land, river and sky are represented to acknowledge that importance of the local environment for the  survival of humans and animals. The artwork, entitled ‘Look to the Future’, achieved first place in the NSW School’s Reconciliation Challenge. The Year 5/6 children and their families attended the award ceremony at the Australian Museum in Sydney. This event was an important springboard that showcased our place in the reconciliation story.

We began a biodiversity project at St. Bede’s in 2013 and contacted two local Brinja-Yuin women from Moruya, Kerry Boyengar and Trisha Ellis. We received valuable funding through a grant from the Upper Shoalhaven Landcare Council and the Southern Rivers Catchment Management Authority.  The project was in collaboration with Felicity Sturgiss from the local Catchment Management Authority. This project aligned with a classroom integrated topic for term three. It culminated in the building, constructing, planting and final opening of a garden and public artwork. The garden is called ‘Walawaani Yaranbul’, which translates as ‘safe journey platypus.’ The artwork is in the form of carved wood for seating, depicting animals and their Dhurga language names, including: gari (snake), yaranbul (platypus), djinug (echidna), gugunyal (kookaburra) and bilima (turtle). Children learnt about Aboriginal use and engagement with local resources and some important information about local plant species.

The recent garden project and subsequent opening is a demonstration of laterally-integrated curriculum, promoting equity and the importance of Aboriginal knowledge in the story of our local area. This project addressed identity, collaboration, biodiversity and local Aboriginal knowledge.  The project focused on Aboriginal people from our region and their knowledge of plants and animals, both in the past and today. The garden is an informal welcoming space where students, teachers and parents are able to gather, reflect and learn. The purpose of the integrated focus was in order for students to become successful learners across different curriculum activities, confident and creative individuals (staff and students had input into the garden) and active and informed citizens as they explore the story of our region.

Through Aboriginal teachers encouraging interest and knowledge in their local language, the project has provided classroom teachers with invaluable professional development on the importance of Aboriginal perspectives and has given staff the confidence to integrate this knowledge in meaningful ways in other areas of the curriculum. The Braidwood region is also fortunate to be able to draw upon resources, such as Uncle Max Dulumunmun-Harrison’s book ‘My Peoples Dreaming’ (2013) which explores places of significance in the region and is a valuable resource for students and teachers. Each class within the school reflected on the knowledge that they had learnt from the book.

The garden concept is a living reminder of the engagement and continuous presence of Aboriginal people in our region, their differing knowledge systems and the significance of local landmarks and waterways. The garden is a space where our community can gather and engage with the story of place. Projects such as these will hopefully open further dialogue and the sharing of local Indigenous knowledge.

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