First Nation – Leaders in our Education

Recently, I was lucky to visit Barkindji people’s country and compile a report that covered the opening of The Gol Gol Cultural and Environmental Immersion Centre. Gol Gol is a tiny town on the Murray River and is on Barkindji people’s country. It is also on land that three Aboriginal Tribal Groups – the Paakantji, Ngiyampaa, and Mutti Mutti people, share and care for their traditional country in the Willandra Lakes World Heritage Area.

The Centre is situated on a block of land bequeathed to Gol Gol Public school. The centre had been funded by community fundraising and the City Country Schools Alliance (CCSA). It is unfunded by the Department of Education which beggars belief.

The Gol Gol Cultural and Environmental Immersion Centre offers visiting students a hands-on outdoor learning experience.  Through encompassing student learning, the centre will facilitate a broad range of experiences developing a greater understanding of Aboriginal history and culture, the environment, the rivers ecosystem, water quality and agribusiness in the local area.

Other key learning areas include:

  • Science and Technology where students focus on the growth, adaptations and survival of living things, habitats, native and introduced species, sustainable agricultural practices, regeneration, looking after and caring for ecosystems, river health and management and how Aboriginal people care for the land.

  • History & Geography where the CCSA is working with community members and organisations to focus upon and deliver immersive lessons and learning experiences for students. Students will engage with the traditional custodians of the land. Students will learn about recent archaeological digs conducted in the area and the history of the megafauna that existed many years ago.

  • Creative and Performing Arts where students engage in many art making lessons using natural materials and creative, expressive pieces with concepts from the land.

Students will also experience Mungo National Park as part of the excursion. Mungo is the cradle of Australian civilization and important for kids to experience. When the oldest human remains (Mungo Man and Mungo Women) were repatriated back to country, spirits in the form of willy willys, immediately sprung up and danced across Mungo Lakes dry bed.

This learning centre will provide an amazing immersive learning experience for 1000’s of students in the years to come. The CCSA has engaged with local indigenous groups to facilitate the authenticity of the experience. These groups provide insights into mother earth and culture, as well as lore and learnings that students will take home with them.

Barkandji man and elder, Arthur Kirby welcomed us to country and conducted a smoking ceremony as we left to ensure unwanted spirits didn’t hitch a ride with us. His words at the Centre’s opening …

“Reconciling our interest in what everyone has been doing on our land. And to be a partner, in a partnership that provides our kids a pathway, so that something they learn today is something they can use in the future. It is a positive start and it will be good to see city kids come out and get that education too. The local Aboriginal groups have pathways officers that go into schools and if the kids want to further their training, we have set up pathways to help them get employment.”

We need to bring first nation learnings to the modern world. There should be more of these centres around the country. The benefits extend way beyond the students’ learning. The pathways it provides and sharing of stories are invaluable to our country’s future.

ian bellert

Founder - Bellstar Media

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