Following a Welcome to Country by Uncle Neville Lilley, Elder of the Worimi People and member of the Worimi Land Council, various native plants were burned in a smoking ceremony, symbolising peace, healing and justice.
During the ceremony Assistant Principal, Marlene George, explained the history behind the garden, “We have wanted to introduce an Indigenous Cultural Garden at St Brigid’s for some time now, so after contacting the Worimi Green Team, we applied for a grant from the Port Stephen’s Council under the banner of the Aboriginal Projects Fund to support our garden project.”
“We were fortunate enough to be contacted by Jennifer Underwood, the Council Community Development and Engagement Officer, who invited us to present our project to the Aboriginal Strategic Committee and as a result we were successful. Our garden was completed last week with the installation of the totems.”
To symbolise the children’s connection to the garden each student has decorated a hand which they have planted alongside the totems in the garden.
“Our Indigenous cultural garden is a source of education and pays tribute to the traditional owners of the land,” said Principal, David Palmer. “It is important for children of all backgrounds and nationalities to understand the traditional practices and customs of this area and the country.”
The unveiling of the totems brought much excitement and anticipation amongst the crowd, where a special story was shared behind the significance and sacredness of the totems.
Participation from students was shown through scripture readings, prayers of the faithful and the uncovering of the totems. It is the children’s responsibility to care for the garden and pass on the story of our totems.
Aboriginal Education Officer from the Catholic Schools Office, Louise Campbell, said of the unveiling, “The cultural garden is about recognising the cultural significance and role of spiritual and cultural wellbeing of the students at St Brigid’s. The identity of Aboriginal people who are linked to this place – the school community itself – is part of the local country as well as each person in it.
“All the students and teachers can gather around the garden, sit down and talk through anything, listen and hear stories of the Dreaming and talk about the bush and what it brings.
“The benefits of the garden extend not only to Aboriginal students and their families, but the whole school community in using the cultural garden and learning about Aboriginal culture. It's full of totems poles with significant symbols and stories. The garden is also a place to learn about the importance of caring for Country and its significance to Aboriginal people.”
The cultural garden brings a sense of community to the school. It also provides encouragement to all the families to contribute and enjoy the serenity and learning about the native flora, fauna and original peoples.
As a community, we have much to learn from our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander brothers and sisters who have been living this connectedness for thousands of years.