Learning about place and connection

By Ms Megan Sampson
IGS Coordinator of Indigenous Partnerships (Acting)

In Term 3, Principal Shauna Colnan encouraged our Koori Club to develop an Acknowledgement of Country to be displayed at The Retreat, our School’s new property in Kangaroo Valley. This was a fantastic opportunity to be creative and engage our Aboriginal students in important discussions about their own cultures and connections to Country and those of others.

The first group meeting was attended by several of our proud Aboriginal students from both Primary and High School. It is a special thing to have our Aboriginal students come together, many of whom are related through interwoven family trees; however, you can’t tell apart those who aren’t related because they all treat each other like family. Sometimes, this means competing for who can speak the loudest to get their point across or rolling on the floor in tears of laughter! Whatever the occasion, their connections are intrinsic.

We began by discussing the reasons for an Acknowledgement of Country. What does the gesture mean to us? What could it mean for the Wodi Wodi People of Kangaroo Valley? 

‘We acknowledge to pay respect’ 
We acknowledge to show we are thankful and embracing the opportunity to be there’
‘To learn about that place’ 

Discussions like these are also an opportunity to talk about the Country that our students come from. Together, we span many Nations, from Wiradjuri and Dunghutti to Gamileroi and Muruwari, to name a few.

‘Country is the land sustains us’
‘Country is things unmoved and untouched over a long time’
‘Nature is food, sleep, life’

As is always the way when our students have the opportunity to gather, they had several other enthusiastic ideas spring from the discussion. The dynamic duo of Alex and Chennelle rallied others to action. They led a group downstairs with a proposal for Ms Duma about how cultural celebration could be a greater feature of their week. As a result of this impassioned proposal, Cultural Dance classes are now being added as a regular feature at IGS. 

Meanwhile, Rena and Alanhni, who have this year stepped wholeheartedly into their responsibilities as the big sistas within Koori club, thoughtfully reflected on the sights and sounds of Kangaroo Valley.

‘The sounds of the birds singing’
‘Kangaroos, wombats and wallabies’
‘The sound of the river’ 
‘Big trees’

This gave me a great deal to work with. The next step was to compose a few variations of an Acknowledgement to put forward at our upcoming Koori Club for the group to make the final choice. Fortunately, our next gathering was a special one because family members were joining us for a Koori Club Breakfast. We were very grateful to be able to invite parents, grandparents, aunties, uncles and siblings into the school once more, something that has not been possible in recent years. Amongst the birthday celebrations, yarns, and joyful play was the opportunity for all to have their say about which Acknowledgment they liked best for Kangaroo Valley. 

This was a wonderful and truly special opportunity for our community to come together and I hope that this Acknowledgment brings everyone the reflection, connection and gratitude it brought to us. 

The Retreat, Kangaroo Valley – Acknowledgement of Country

Tread lightly on this Country among the wallaby and wombats, where the river and trees hold stories of the past.

Tread lightly on this Country of the Wodi Wodi people, with respect to their connection to Country and Culture, they belong to this place.

Tread lightly on this country where we come to connect, learn and grow together. While we are here, we will care for this place.

Above: IGS Koori Club 2023