Transcript for Our Ways
Our Ways is based on the work, the Eight Ways work that came out of Dubbo. We deliberately changed the names, Aunty Wendy Lotter, who you’ll be speaking to later thought it was a really interesting way to take ownership of it by actually changing the name from Eight Ways to Our Ways.
The first thing that they undertook was to make sure that Our Ways was really integrated into every aspect of the school life so that it didn’t just become like another add on. We then wanted to move it right into the classroom and into the way that we approach learning in every classroom around the school. So, from there we went to developing the ways of learning symbols which were the eight different symbols showing things like non-linear, non-verbal, Land Links, deconstruct/reconstruct.
It’s been part of the whole school program since 2013 and it’s a journey that takes some considerable time and it should take some really authentic if you like or fair dinkum consultation and communication with our local Aboriginal community and our Elders. And it’s a journey that changes the culture of the school.
It was really interesting to learn about the local community and Aboriginals in the local community because it just opened my eyes to what really was important and what you know other people around here actually cared about and that I honestly had no clue about. So, the stories that we learnt and the symbols and just the overall history of this area was really, really important to me.
We go meet up with the Elders and they’ll teach us and then we try and get a symbol from the things that they teach us and be able to create something that everyone can understand from it.
Aunty Eleanor McIlwain:
My role in the community is I’m an Aboriginal Elder, a Kamilaroi woman, so I came from a cooler area. It’s impacted me that people are interested to dig more deeply into what Aboriginal life was and still is and what it’s all about and how can we share and maintain our wonderful culture.
Aunty Wendy Lotter:
This is pure ochre, this is white ochre, have a feel, touch it, right just feel it. Have a feel kiddos. Right, the thing about this is that it’s used in ceremonies, it comes from Cooma actually this one comes from. What it does is if you’re a female you put it on the inside of your arm and that’s for protection. So, if you’re going from one area to another you put it on your arm here. Guys – hey ya baby - there. Guys have it on their forehead. And when you do cultural tours, remember last time when we were all talking I said cultural tours, one of the things is you do a smoking ceremony and you put the ochre because we didn’t have the smoking last time because it was you know raining and we went just for a quick walk, you put the dots on the top of your head. Remember, I said that and then it shows the traditional Elders that you’re here and so you can walk through. I target Aboriginal kids but I like to get them a friend to bring along. So, it’s about everybody knowing that Australia has a black history. So, we spoke to a lot of people, Yianni, I brought Yianni along with me all the time when … and we always sit around and yarn first, we have fun, we laugh up and ‘Hey, haven’t seen you for a long time.’ Just get that part so that it makes you comfortable to ask the necessary questions that you need answers for. In regards to Land Links, I said ‘Step outside your box, Pete.’ Get outside your box it’s like a teacher, outside your box. And then he goes ‘I am, I am.’ Right, okay.’ I said, “Think about Land Links, think about Lomandra.” Okay, Lomandra sits around all the nations that cover this area. So, you’ve got Pejar, you’ve Wiradjuri, you’ve got Tharawal/Dharawal, you’ve got Yuin. So, you’ve got all these areas, all these nations covering our area. In all that area that covers this Gundungurra have a Lomandra, goes around all of them. And I said ‘So, Pete there’s your Land Links, it’s in dirt, guess what it rains.’ And I said ‘The earth is full, outside your box so I had to keep on saying that to make sure. I wanted to see the penny drop. And I said to him ‘Look, the earth is covered, seventy percent of earth is covered with water, the sun evaporates that and gets it from Japan, America, Africa, all over the place, just think all that information in that water comes from you know from all over the world. So, they’re going to pick up that information… are you outside your box?’ Poor fella and I said ‘Picks it up, comes over to Gundungurra and drops all that information on our Lomandra.’ And I said ‘So, in the dirt has all that information all over the world.’ I said ‘The plant comes up and I said the seeds are pollinated by bees that could come from Yuin, could come from Wiradjuri, could come from Tharawal. They come along pollinate here and go to the next one.’ So, now you’re getting information again from your local area and plus you’ve got the water coming from the earth. And I said ‘Would that suit Land Links?’ And he goes ‘Yeah, we’d go with your culture.’ I thought you would.
To make our Our Ways journey real we’ve involved our community and gone out onto country and experienced and listened to stories and heard stories and shared stories out on country with our Aboriginal community leaders and our Elders. So, the symbols and the work that we’ve put together that represents the journey that we have in Our Ways is absolutely from our local area and absolutely true to our local Gundungurra community.
But the thing I think’s really important is not the book that we’re going to produce in the end. I think the most powerful thing that we have done is the process that we’ve gone to get to our book and I think if we can share anything at Moss Vale High School, it’s not the teaching resource or the you know tangible book at the end of it but rather it’s discussing and talking about and sharing the journey we went through, the process that we went through to get our book. The process is the key. The book is great and it’s going to be fantastic for us but the process that we went through to get our book I think is the key to really good teaching and learning and embedding Aboriginal education into, not something that we just do incidentally but becoming, you know putting our money where our mouth is and becoming part of who we actually are. So, when we do it we’ve got to mean it and it has to be done with local expertise and knowledge. We just can’t do it, schools can’t do it by themselves and we’ve got to be willing and enthusiastic and brave enough to ask for help.
We have an Aboriginal Education team at the school that has representatives from all faculties across the school. And so when we meet, we meet as a group of … obviously as a group of teachers but we also include our community in those meetings. We also include our local government Aboriginal Education representatives and we also include some of our local members of our partner primary school. And so it’s not just a group of teachers that meet, it’s a group that’s representative I think of our community on a much greater scale. So, and because there’s representative of all teachers across the faculties, all the teachers have the capacity to have input and support the direction that we take in terms of embedding Aboriginal education into our school again making sure that we’re learning through the culture and classrooms. And I often get asked as a principal how many young people do we have in our school that are Aboriginal? And we only have twenty three Aboriginal students out of about six hundred and twenty, six hundred and thirty young people. And I’ve often heard people say to me ‘Oh, that’s not that many, why do we do so much in Aboriginal education?’ And we do that because we have the belief and the fact that we have six hundred and thirty young people who their education, their future, their lives will be enriched by increasing their knowledge of the value and the significance and the richness of our Aboriginal culture and history. Probably the word that comes to mind is connections in culture. It’s brought people together. It’s brought students together with staff and community. It’s developed relationships. It’s developed belief in what we’re doing. It’s developed belief in young people and the futures that they have through quality teaching and learning and through embracing our Aboriginal culture and history. The thing that makes me really proud too is that our young people embrace their Aboriginal culture, are proud of their Aboriginal culture, are happy to show off about their Aboriginal culture and are proud of who they are. And that belief within themselves is something that’s really positive and really strong amongst many of the young people here at school. And that belief in young people is communicated through our community members and also the staff at school. And so that positive feel in the place is something that we’re very pleased of and happy for. It helps young people create the belief in their future and that’s what we’re on about.
End of transcript