Strengthening Student Ties to Australia’s First Nations

Strengthening Student Ties to Australia’s First Nations thumbnail

Sydney and Arnhem Land have come together over four days of celebration and education about Indigenous culture.

In a trailblazing new program conducted last week, Redlands Year 9 students interacted and learnt directly from Arnhem Land’s Yolngu community about their history, cultural values, kinship and traditional practices.

Coordinated by Culture College Aboriginal Corporation, Sydney’s Redlands campus was virtually linked to Arnhem Land so students could learn from the Yolngu people through a virtual cultural immersion classroom experience.

To provide further support, members of Sydney’s Gadigal and Dharug communities also participated in the on-campus cultural immersion with practical workshops in Indigenous artwork, dance, bushcraft and cooking.

Redlands has an established partnership with Culture College, Arnhem Land, that has seen groups of students make the pilgrimage to the Northern Territory each year to attend an immersive camp.

For the first time in the history of the School, Redlands had planned this year for all Year 9 students to travel to the Northern Territory for their annual camp, however due to COVID-19, they joined virtually from the Cremorne Campus.

Redlands Principal, Stephen Webber, said there was a genuine desire at the School to develop a strong connection with both our local and remote First Nations communities and was adamant that, despite the COVID obstacles, the experience needed to go ahead.

“Learning about Indigenous history and contemporary communities are such important lessons to provide for our students,” Mr Webber said.

“It is a privilege to listen and learn directly from First Nations,  not only to deepen our understanding of the values and beliefs of the oldest living culture on the planet, but in order to move forward together towards genuine Reconciliation.”

The Redlands Principal added how grateful he was to witness this special collaboration between the School, Culture College, the Yolngu and the Gadigal and Dharug people to develop this Midawarr Program.

“Taking this experience to a virtual platform hopefully provides an opportunity to significantly expand its reach to more schools in the future.

“If Australia is going to move forward together, our young people must be knowledgeable of the achievements, values and beliefs of the world’s oldest continuing civilisation.

“For example, for sixty millennia Indigenous Sovereign Nations have been in a personal relationship with their country and this is just one of many teachings students at Redlands can learn from.

“We are excited to work collaboratively and creatively with Culture College to pilot this virtual program as it has the potential to support the Yolngu people in their vision of expanding knowledge and understanding of their strong culture and connection to country.”

Following the four day event, Culture College CEO, Justin Porter said the week was a great success.

“For the past three years the Yolngu people have enjoyed sharing their culture and welcoming Redlands students visiting Arnhem Land, and we are hoping to expand that opportunity to other schools around Australia,” Mr Porter said.

“We are hoping this inaugural virtual cultural immersion could provide a blueprint for future success for Culture College and our partnering communities, so that more schools can be part of this journey with us.”