On Tuesday and Wednesday, Years 5 and 6 each enjoyed a visit to The Retreat, Kangaroo Valley. After the two hour journey, the students eagerly jumped off the bus, ready to take in the greenery, tall trees and fresh air. “We are in an area very different from our school environment, so take a minute and focus on your five senses,” said Year 5 Teacher Ms Jessica Price. “What do you see? What do you hear? What do you feel?”
The students then had the opportunity to explore the property and its wide open spaces, starting at the main house and pavilion and continuing through the gardens and paddocks, where they even saw a mob of kangaroos. Games of freeze tag broke out afterwards during recess.
Both year groups were led in a yarning circle by Uncle Raymond of Gadhungal Murring, a local Indigenous-owned business specialising in the delivery of cultural services, such as Welcome to Country and smoking ceremonies. He spoke to the students about Dharawal culture and their connection to the land and sea. One of his stories was about the black cockatoo, and how seeing one or two flying overhead means rain is coming. Seeing many black cockatoos means an even bigger storm is coming, he said. The students were captivated by his stories, repeating the words he taught them.
They raised their hands frequently throughout the session and asked thoughtful questions. Upon hearing Uncle Raymond say that marine life is important to his culture, one student asked if they are allowed to eat fish. Uncle Raymond explained that consuming fish is part of their role in the food chain, and that they only take what they need while using all of what they take. He told the students he was impressed with their questions and comments for provoking such engaging conversation. The students then took part in a smoking ceremony before heading to the buses for the drive back to Ultimo.
Two students provided their feedback:
“I learned that stories are how first nations people teach young kids about their culture. On top of this I learned that for part of the year the men and women split up. I also learned the story about the black cockatoo, which I found intriguing as I’d never heard about it. The story was great and taught us valuable life lessons.”
“‘I’ve got your back’ means that everyone is taking care of someone and everyone is being taken care of. Everyone has a responsibility and a role.”