An excursion with a difference

Students from St Joseph’s Primary School, Denman, travelled to Bourke to learn more about the Indigenous and post-colonisation history of remote Australia.

Linking to their studies in History, Geography, English and Religion, the four-day excursion saw Year 5 and 6 students head off on an adventure to discover the rich history and vast landscape of Bourke.

Visiting Mt Gundabooka National Park, students met with Aboriginal Elder, Phillip Sullivan, for an inspiring discussion about the history of the Indigenous peoples of the area and the importance of the area as a meeting place of nations.

Phillip showed the students bush medicine and artefacts of the area including cooking pits, stone work and impressive artwork.

Mostly importantly, Phillip talked with the students about the need for equality of all and to value both what we can and cannot see in people – the respect, love, compassion and integrity that each individual possess.

Students then visited St Ignatius Primary School where they were welcomed by the Principal and a group of students who shared an amazing Indigenous dance.

St Joseph's students completed STEM activities with the students of St Ignatius, before sharing a barbecue and afternoon games together.

Visiting the ‘The Lagoon’ Sheep Station by the Mitchell family, students had the opportunity to tour the station, the shearing shed and had the opportunity to go yabbying in one the dams, before being treated to a home cooked cake and billy tea, just like the shearers would.

Taking part in an Indigenous walking tour of the river in town, run by Jason Dixon and his identical brother Joseph, students learned about the various artefacts used by the Indigenous men and women from their nation, including coolamons, stone axes and a variety of boomerangs and spears. Even the groups coach driver described the presentation “as the best cultural presentation he had seen in all of his years of charters.”

The next component of the excursion involved studying the post-colonisation history of the Bourke area. Students got the chance to travel along the Darling River on the PV Jandra, a replica of a paddle steamer that travelled the Darling and Murray Rivers to transport wool.

Students also got to visit one of the local radio stations, 2WEB, and watched as some of the St Ignatius students prepared and recorded their weekly radio show.

On the last evening the group attended ‘Poetry on a Plate’ at Kidman’s Camp Caravan Park. Sharing a meal around the gidgee fire with other tourists, students heard poems and songs by the renowned poet and balladeer, Frank Povah.

Stopping at one final destination on their way home, students visited Brewarrina Fish Traps, known as one of the oldest man-made objects on the globe.

Overall a great time was had by the students, parents and staff who attended and all came away with amazing stories, both from the past and from their time in Bourke.

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Aaron Moon Image
Aaron Moon

Aaron Moon is the Principal of St James' Primary School, Muswellbrook.