Creative cross-cultural exchange in McCrae

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Now this is something clever and extremely special. Mornington Peninsula Magazine moseyed along to the launch of the Cross-Cultural Education Experience program at McCrae Homestead in late July and the atmosphere was enthusiastically electric. A traditional smoking ceremony overseen by Bunurong Land Council representatives Dan Turnbull and John Winch began the proceedings, along with a description of what it might have been like for Indigenous people high up on Wonga (the Indigenous name for Arthurs Seat) watching the settlers’ ships roll in. The didgeridoo played while members of the gathering walked through the cleansing smoke that smelt like Country — full of eucalypt and cherry ballart — with a willum (traditional Bunurong dwelling) created by Living Culture courtesy of a Creative Community Grant provided by the Mornington Peninsula Shire in the background.

There was much conversation and degustation of Indigenous foods after the speeches inside the history-laden homestead, which included an introduction to the program by National Trust chief executive Simon Ambrose. There was also a short Q&A with Grade 3 Rosebud Primary students Phoebe Wilson-Armstrong and Lennox Longhurst, who had taken part in the pilot program. 

The National Trust of Australia (Victoria), in partnership with the Bunurong Land Council Aboriginal Corporation, has developed this forward-thinking program to introduce the similarities and differences between local Indigenous communities and the early colonial settlers. Built in 1844, the homestead is one of the oldest homes in Victoria and Georgiana McCrae, who had six children, recorded the sharing of skills and resources between her family and the traditional land owners, the Bunurong people. 

Eighteen months in the making, the Bunurong component of the Cross-Cultural Education Experience, which is targeted at primary school children, is led by Taungurung woman and Indigenous educator Samantha Trist. She explains: “I love sharing my culture with children. We follow Bunjil’s lore, search for animal tracks and bush foods using traditional Indigenous methods. We also explore the importance of storytelling and ceremony, and the kids also learn traditional Bunurong dance moves. You know that Bunurong people used to bring a gum leaf when they came to visit. I’ve created a wooden gum leaf to show the children out of respect to the eucalypt.”

What a wonderful way for our kids to explore the Mornington Peninsula’s Indigenous and first settlement history. Smart thinking. Let’s see more of it. The Cross-Cultural Education Experience is available for primary school bookings at www.nationaltrust.org.au/educationprograms/mccrae-cross-cultural-education-experience

LIZ ROGERS

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