People and Places
27/11/2019
Connecting with Aboriginal history through flora and fauna

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When discussions began in 2016 regarding the creation of an Indigenous edible garden at Dromana Primary School, science and Aboriginal studies specialist teacher Shanai Kellett and the rest of the science team weren’t really sure how the project would turn out. Fast-forward to today and this outdoor space has become the place to feel calm and connect with the Aboriginal history of the region. 

Shanai explains: “Originally we wanted all plants in the garden to be edible but began to understand how difficult that may become due to maintenance, so we opted to plant hardy Indigenous plants that would attract birds and reptiles to the garden. These included red and yellow kangaroo paws, red and yellow goodenia, grevillea, lomandra tanika grass and green native grasses, which were planted by Greg Budgen and Nelly Leonard, who also created the native gardens that run under the Arthurs Seat chairlift. Students have the opportunity to learn about each individual plant and the importance of them to Indigenous peoples, whether it was for food or for using in weaving or building practice. Including art in the space is integral to the Indigenous understanding. You enter the garden at the tail of a serpent, which is one of the Aboriginal creators, and leave at its head with the idea that you find a sense of peace from the journey. We also have Bunjil the eagle, which is another Aboriginal creator in the garden.”

The Indigenous garden project began with Dromana Primary Grade 3 students designing the space that runs along the Grade 3 building, but each year level has played a part in producing artwork throughout the garden. Totem poles decorated with Dreamtime stories, a mural representing the land and bay, and tiles which are placed consecutively to tell the story of the sea animals in the region through an Indigenous lens are also included.

Shanai continues: “I always found a real lack of Indigenous history awareness throughout my primary, high school and university schooling. Now I have the opportunity to share Indigenous culture through a scientific lens highlighting flora and fauna. We also run a series of science-related Aboriginal studies from a boatshed on the Dromana foreshore where children learn about the Indigenous coastal connection.” Clever Dromana Primary. 

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