A week of firsts as Aboriginal culture comes to the fore

The NAIDOC Week, Always Was, Always Will Be, has been showcased and celebrated in schools across the State.

Image: Aboriginal teacher Racheal Morgan with members of Oak Flats Public School Aboriginal Mudjingaal Group stand in front of the new school mural wearing the new sports shirts.

Schools across NSW have embraced NAIDOC Week with some groundbreaking events to mark the national week of celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their cultures.

At Oak Flats Public School students are literally wearing their pride in the local Aboriginal creation story with the launch of a new sports shirt today for NAIDOC Week.

Also today students from Woronora River, Prestons and Leichhardt public schools, Northern Beaches Secondary School and Evans High School joined award-winning artist Archie Roach to sing his acclaimed hits, Took the Children Away and Children Came Back.

Today's event coincided with the 30th anniversary of the release of Roach’s album, Charcoal Lane.

In another first, Nyngan High School captains and Aboriginal Education Consultative Group (AECG) junior students performed the national anthem in language for the opening of NAIDOC Week celebrations in Bogan Shire.

The Nyngan Local Aboriginal Lands Council and Nyngan AECG worked with Ngemba woman Melissa Kirby on translating the national anthem into Ngiyampaa Wangaaypuwan, which is the local language of Wongaibon nation.

Nyngan High School Aboriginal Education Officer Raylene Weldon taught the students the anthem and they performed it at the Bogan Shire Council NAIDOC Week opening ceremony.

School principal Benn Wright said it was a very exciting and special moment.

“We’re very proud to have been able to sing the national anthem for the first time in Ngiyampaa langauge,” he told the local paper.

Mr Wright praised the local AECG and Aboriginal Lands Council for their work in translating the anthem.

“[They] do a lot of amazing work with our students and within the community and we are very thankful to them,” he said.

Image: Nyngan High School principal Benn Wright with his student leaders ahead of the Bogan Shire NAIDOC Week opening ceremony.

Earlier this week, students at Peel and Tamworth high schools held a Q&A with Benson Saulo – the first indigenous consul-general to the US and Peel High School graduate.

Among the questions asked, Mr Saulo was asked how he stayed connected to culture when moving around so much.

“You don’t park it and put it aside when you put on a suit … culture is who you are, it’s the flesh on your bones, it’s the spirit that drives you, it’s that continual and constant connection to the land that you walk on,” he said.

Oak Flats Public School principal Daliya Phipps said the school community and students were excited by the work done to embed the local Aboriginal creation story into their school.

She said the students had learned the story of Gurrungutch, the Giant Eel, and how he created the local waterways in the area, including Lake Illawarra.

To celebrate the local legend, the school had created a mural and worked with students on developing an Aboriginal-themed sports shirt.

Ms Phipps said the arrival of Aboriginal teacher Racheal Morgan to the school around four years ago had made a huge impact on bringing Aboriginal culture forward.

She had formed the Mudjingaal Group for Aboriginal students that focused on culture and had worked with staff to create units of work with Aboriginal perspectives as well as a Reconcilitation Action Plan.

Ms Phipps said the approach had also helped bring the local Aboriginal community closer to the school.

“Our families recognise we understand the importance of Aboriginal culture and Country,” she said.

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