Wandana Immersion Experience

A number of schools from across the Diocese of Newcastle-Maitland recently took part in the Wandana School Program which is aimed at helping students understand and explore Aboriginal culture.

The Wandana School Program visited a number of schools in June and July including Our Lady of Victories, Shortland; St Dominic’s Centre, Mayfield; St Benedict’s, Edgeworth; St Joseph’s, Charlestown; St Pius X, Windale; St Joseph’s, Taree; St Clare’s, Taree; St Joseph's, Wingham and St Joseph’s, Bulahdelah.

Students had the opportunity to participate in a range of activities as they learned about Aboriginal culture and its people through song, dance, didgeridoo, art, history and storytelling.

Each school started its morning with an assembly involving an Acknowledgement of Country followed by a Reconciliation prayer and Smoking Ceremony where staff, students and parents were encouraged to place a gum leaf into smoking Coolamon.

As year groups spent time with the Wandana group throughout the day, they were involved in a variety of activities.

The Wandana tutors taught students about the crafting, customs and history of the didgeridoo, as well as giving a demonstration of how the traditional instrument is played.

The tutors gave students an overview of local Aboriginal history, art and the symbols used to create their paintings, and told them dreamtime stories while explaining the morals and values taught by each story.

Students learned about traditional tools and weapons used by Aboriginal people and how they were made and used on a daily basis.

Lastly, students and staff all had the opportunity to contribute to a school mural that depicts the school's history, core values, motifs/symbols and connection to community and student body using traditional Aboriginal symbols and painting techniques. 

After learning about the depiction of traditional artefacts and other iconic symbols - dot painting, cross hatching, x-ray art and animal totems -  in Aboriginal art, as well as traditional ochre paint and Aboriginal body painting, students had the chance to have either their face painted with traditional markings or have an animal totem painted on their hand.

“We greatly appreciated the opportunity to share this experience with your school communities and the chance to inspire the students and teachers along the way,” said Brian Cook who, together with Eve White, leads this program.

“Thank you for making your school community part of the one million students inspired through Aboriginal cultural throughout Australia by 2020.”


St Benedict’s Edgeworth

Mark Hornby-Howell - Principal of St Benedict's

When Wandana visited St Benedict's to help students explore Aboriginal culture, the students took part in a wide range of creative educational experiences including song, dance, didgeridoo, art, history and storytelling.

It was a fantastic day of celebration and understanding.

The day began with a Welcome to Country, followed by each class working with presenters Eve White and Brian Cook.

The day ended with the unveiling of the school mural, now a much-treasured memory of the day.

Presenters, Eve White and Brian Cook, are to be congratulated for taking the students on a journey of discovery of Aboriginal culture using involvement and engagement to capture their interest.


St Pius X, Windale

Laura-Lee – student at St Pius X student

A few weeks ago we had a celebration called Wandana Day.

It involved a Smoking Ceremony where we burnt gum tree leaves.

We also did a painting which we completed together to make a large mural for our school.

We also played Aboriginal games and practised Aboriginal meditation.

I think other schools should do this because it teaches other Aboriginal students more about their culture and it teaches non-Indigenous students about what we believe in and what they could learn.

From my perspective, as an Aboriginal child, I think this was a wonderful experience because some of this stuff I didn’t even know. I knew what a Smoking Ceremony was but I never knew there was even such a thing as Aboriginal meditation.

As an Aboriginal, this day made me very happy. I am proud that our school acknowledges our traditions and teaches Aboriginal traditions.


Our Lady of Victories Primary School, Shortland 

Principal of Our Lady of Victories, Gerry Vandermaat

Brian Cook and Eve White brought the Wandana Immersion Experience to Our Lady of Victories on 4 June.

The day began with a Smoking Ceremony and a Welcome to Country which involved the whole school.

Our School Leaders and one of our Indigenous Families were recognised by the visitors and had their faces marked in the traditional way.

Following this, Eve White presented each class with artefacts and told the stories behind them as well as explaining some of the traditional symbols in paintings and stories.

The students played games and heard some interesting facts about Aboriginal life.

While half the students were having their faces marked, the other half was contributing to a large mural which depicts the story of the Awabakal people of our region and how it is linked with our school’s story.

The day concluded with another ceremony which told the story behind the mural to which children teachers and parents all contributed. This was unveiled for all to see.

The day was a wonderful experience and the immersion gave the children a deeper understanding of, and connection to, the traditional custodians of the land on which we learn. 

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