Art speaks louder than words

Education plays a pivotal role in the healthy development of all children but for Molly Mung it also provides a gateway to a rich and proud history spanning tens of thousands of years.

A Year 6 student at St Joseph’s Primary School Dungog, 12-year-old Molly is a Gija woman who has been raised on Worimi land but has strong familial connections to Frog Hollow and Warmun in the Kimberley.

“When I get to go to the Kimberley and spend time with my family there, it makes me feel happy and really excited,” she said. “I get to learn from people and get knowledge and tips on fishing, bush food and dream time stories.”

For the past two years, Molly has been working with her school’s Aboriginal Education Worker, Karen Tucker, to better understand her culture and foster a deeper connection to it.

“I feel connected to my culture when I’m there (The Kimberley), I’m a different version of myself and when I come back to Dungog, doing culture with Karen makes me feel connected.”

The theme for NAIDOC week this year was, “For Our Elders”, and Karen encouraged Molly to create an artwork that was reflective of the elders that have influenced her throughout her life.

In creating her artwork, Molly said she thought about people and places that held great memories that would remain with her forever.

“This painting is about my Grandma,” Molly said.

“The blue represents the water where we would go fishing and swimming, the brown represents the rocks where we used to dive off into the water. In the middle is a reflection of my grandma.

“My grandmother is a respected elder and I am a reflection of her.”

Karen works with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students throughout their primary years to help them understand their cultural heritage and identity.

“I am proud of the artwork Molly produced, it perfectly represents what the 2023 NAIDOC theme, ‘For Our Elders’, means to her and tells a story that is rich with history and sentiment,” she said.

Karen said moments like these made her role as an Aboriginal Education Worker so rewarding.

“I feel very privileged to hold this position and honoured that our relationship, which has been built on trust, has enabled Molly to feel confident, valued, seen and heard,” she said.

“Thank you, Molly, you have taught me so much.”

Louise Campbell, Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Education & Wellbeing Education Officer, Catholic Schools Office, spent some time in the Kimberley region where she was immersed in the Gija people’s culture.

Upon seeing Molly’s artwork, Louise said it left “an incredible mark on my soul” and was able to create an entire sensory symphony akin to her experience visiting the Kimberley’s.

“Molly’s commitment to keep her culture alive is embodied in her art piece and I congratulate her that she is continuing a legacy that has been handed over from her Gija Elders, so far away from her homelands,” said Louise.

While Frog Hollow and Warmun are a long way from Dungog, Molly said the encouragement of her school and the wider community, to keep learning about her culture, made her feel respected and happy.

“I like how supportive my school and community are of me,” she said. “I think it’s important because in the past I don’t think aboriginal people have been able to talk about this sort of thing and I don’t think they’ve had as much respect as I do today.”

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