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Indigenous students hit the right note with ‘Garden of Reciprocity’

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Mt Eliza Secondary College students have enjoyed spectacular success with an idea for an outdoor classroom that includes a bush tucker garden and murals.

What started more than 12 months ago as an idea pitched by a keen group of indigenous students to school leaders has earned the school a Mayoral Sustainability Award and exhibition space at McClelland Sculpture Park + Gallery.

The young people collaborated closely in 2015 with local indigenous elders and artists to design and paint four murals, pictured, that incorporate the students’ personal clan totems (animals that were significant to their ancestors). Each panel represents a natural element supporting life: air, earth, fire and water.

The four murals have been on display for the past two months on the outside wall of the McClelland Gallery to celebrate NAIDOC Week 2016. NAIDOC Week is an Australian observance that starts on the first Sunday in July.

The outdoor classroom at the school is called the Garden of Reciprocity and the project was a collaboration between indigenous and non-indigenous students. A priority of the group, teacher Narelle Debenham said, was to educate their fellow students and the wider school community about sustainable resources and their ancestors’ cultures, laws, ceremonies and connection to the land.  “The project highlighted a unique opportunity for our young people to work together collaboratively, while recognising the impressive history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in this land and their unique contribution to the nation. Appreciating the natural elements we rely on for our survival unearthed the continuing responsibility we all have to care for our country.”

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