An Aboriginal cultural experience for St Dominic’s Centre

Today, Wandana Aboriginal Education and Events, travelled from Sydney to visit students from St Dominic’s Centre, Mayfield.

At the recent Catholic Schools Principals Conference, Wandana, which specialises in curriculum-based Aboriginal education, donated a painting to the school as well as provided an Aboriginal cultural experience for the students.

The day began with a school assembly followed by an Acknowledgment to Country, Reconciliation prayer and traditional ochre paint that was offered to students for face paint. During the smoking ceremony, all students, teachers and parents were encouraged to place a gum leaf into the smoking coolamon.

Students participated in traditional Aboriginal dance with clap sticks (Bilma) and music, listened to Dreamtime stories, were shown a number of Indigenous artefacts and animal totem body shapes and learnt about traditional Aboriginal art symbols and paint journey stones.

“We aim to provide a rich, unique and well-structured learning experience that engages, educates and inspires school communities. Our program is a combination of listening, learning and getting children involved.

“We have donated a school painting that has input from everyone at the school and allows each member of the school community to leave a legacy. It is a significant piece of artwork that captures the true essence of the St Dominic’s community that will live and breathe with the school for generations,” said Wandana Managing Director, Brian Cook.

To symbolise the children’s connection to the school, all students and teachers were invited to contribute to their new school painting which will soon be placed at the main entrance of St Dominic’s Centre. It will provide a strong visual statement for everyone who comes through our gates.

The St Dominic’s school painting is a modern contemporary Aboriginal painting that captures the true essence of the school community and its Indigenous heritage. The painting features:

  • Concentric circles in red oxide colour to represent the Dominican Sisters
  • The eight U shape symbols around the circles depict the original eight Dominican Sisters who travelled from Ireland to establish Australia’s first Catholic school for deaf students in Newcastle
  • The stars of the southern cross represent St Dominic as the Patron Saint of Astronomers
  • The large handprint is the Australian representative of the Dominican Sisters
  • The Hunter river in dark blue can be seen flowing through the centre of the painting
  • A light blue passage shows the oceans over which the eight Sisters travelled to Australia
  • The Aboriginal rainbow serpent is at the base of the painting – a traditional creator figure to pay homage to the local Wonnarua Koori people of the Hunter Valley and neighbouring tribes
  • The right hand side of the panel features the circles to represent St Dominic’s Centre
  • The large U shape symbols depict the teachers, parents and carers along with the smaller U shapes representing the students of the school
  • Radiating out from the school are dotted bands to represent the students, teachers and families that have made a contribution to St Dominic’s over the past 142 years
  • The colourful areas of the painting depict the various landscapes of the surrounding areas and the different communities within
  • Above the school is the handprint of the St Dominic’s Centre principal, to represent principals both past and present and the love and dedication shining over the entire school community.

One of our key goals at St Dominic’s is to provide a broader perspective of the world for all of our students. It is important for them to have a knowledge of our beginnings so we are able to help plan for their future. We are smashing stereotypes here at St Dominic’s and have created a fully inclusive setting for all students.

Along with recent refurbishment, including work to our outdoor area, students, teachers and visitors who enter the school will be greeted by a wonderful contemporary artwork, inviting them to observe, engage and immerse themselves in Aboriginal culture.

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Gabrielle Sutherland Image
Gabrielle Sutherland

Gabrielle Sutherland is a Marketing & Communications Officer for the Catholic Schools Office and a regular contributor to and Aurora.