Stan Grant launches the 2020 IGS HSC Aboriginal Studies Exhibition


Hi. My name is Tim Bishop and I’m a proud descendant of the Muruwari people from the Culgoa region in Northern NSW. It is both an honour and a privilege to perform an Acknowledgement of Country.

I would like to acknowledge and pay my respects to the Gadigal clan as the traditional custodians of the land where we are gathered today. It is upon their ancestral grounds which International Grammar School is located.

I would like to acknowledge all elders past, present, and emerging, all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in attendance, as well as other Indigenous peoples from across the globe, and to extend this respect to all non-Indigenous peoples gathered.

Tim Bishop (right) during International Day 2019

The showcase for the 2020 IGS Year 12 Aboriginal Studies Major Project is something which I’m excited to witness, as it is an opportunity for these students to demonstrate their understandings. Through the development of their research skills, casting their net broader and looking for what might not be there, the students have taken part in a guided consultation in the formation of their Major Project. At the heart of Aboriginal Studies is the valuing, appreciation and privileging of Indigenous Knowledge. Their respective projects will embrace this Knowledge through their own unique perspectives, and again, I can’t wait to see what they bring to the table.


These students are tomorrow’s leaders, and by nurturing them we are caring for future generations and the land which we all share.
Aboriginal land. Always was, Always will be. Aboriginal land. Thank you.

The Hon Linda Burney MP congratulates IGS

IGS respectfully asks audiences to be aware that deceased people may be depicted in this exhibition.


IGS Principal Shauna Colnan invites us all to explore students' powerful, beautiful and thought provoking works.

I could not be more proud of our students who have carried out significant original research in Aboriginal Studies for these HSC Major Projects, examining sometimes deep and difficult issues, past and present.

At IGS, we launched Aboriginal Studies as a direct initiative of our Reconciliation Action Plan and because it’s such a life-changing and mind-expanding course which in my view should be offered in every NSW school.

We offer our deepest thanks to Head of Indigenous Education Jade Carr for her leadership in this increasingly popular course, and to all Aboriginal people who have worked so generously with our students to share their knowledge and experience in raising awareness and improving our understanding.

We are indebted to Federal Member for Barton the Hon Linda Burney MP for her powerful words on the importance of Aboriginal Studies, her belief that “truth is what liberates a country,” and her congratulations to our students.

I also wish to thank IGS parent Tim Bishop for Acknowledging Country with poetic force.

Finally, Stan Grant in his eloquent and generous opening words makes a compelling call to our students for open hearts and open minds, and for empathy and the hard work that underpins it. His call to action reminds me of Wendell Berry’s poem To Know the Dark, which was sent to me by an IGS parent in the wake of the killing of George Floyd.

In it Berry writes:
To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.

Knowledge is power, as these new works illustrate.

I commend each of them to you.


From Head of Indigenous Education Jade Carr

Welcome to our 2020 Aboriginal Studies Exhibition!

Over the past three years, Aboriginal Studies has become increasingly popular at IGS and for good reason.

Students are starting to recognise the lack of Aboriginal perspective that they have experienced throughout their education, and electing to study a subject that is wholly devoted to the exploration of Aboriginal Australia in their senior years.

Students are taking the ideas and concepts from this subject to apply to contemporary society and challenge old perceptions. For them, if Aboriginal Australia matters, then Aboriginal Studies is the next relevant step.

They are then placing themselves as social change advocates and it is our responsibility as a School to support the subject with positive, proactive strategies through the curriculum choices we offer.

This year we have 24 students completing their HSC, an increase of enrolments in the course by 160 per cent over last year. This clearly indicates that the School and the students are now ready to lead and be advocates of change in this space.

The students have approached their Major Projects with maturity, open minds and open hearts, and have thrived through the experience – despite the limitations presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Much has been learnt. As their teacher, I am extremely proud of the contributions to this learning space that have been made for the benefit of the whole community.


Anya Haywood


“I picked this course as I wanted to know more about the first peoples of this land and their history,” Anya said.

“I’ve realised after this course that public preconceptions of Indigenous peoples are largely based upon a negative narrative as they are not educated correctly on Indigenous life. 

“Prior to this course, I too barely knew anything about Australian Indigenous people’s culture and lives. I decided to pick the compressed course instead of the two-year course as I wanted to challenge myself.

“I found the heritage and identity portion of this course to be my favourite thus far. It was interesting to learn about how government policies and separation from a culture has a great effect on identity and on future generations.”

Eva Workman

How do Indigenous artists use their occupation to express their Aboriginality?

As an artist herself, Eva said it felt empowering to research such established artists,” she said.

“I found that art is very important for exploration and helps share a cultural identity. I found that this topic is important, as, in a political environment where indigenous voices aren’t heard, art helps share and empower indigenous voices across a multitude of platforms and raises awareness.”

“Art is the future of indigenous representation that is a stand against racist suppression.”

Isabel Whitaker

Indigenous Land and Fire Management Teaching Kit

After embarking on the Red Earth Immersion trip, Isabel felt inspired to learn more deeply about Aboriginal history.

“My Major Project is a Teaching Kit for Stage 4 students. It achieves two out of the three cross-curriculum priorities meaning it can be applied to all key learning areas. It involves a workshop plan, a PowerPoint, a Kahoot, a Yarning Circle sheet, a Teachers Fact Sheet, eight-way pedagogy activity cards and “I used to think, but now I think” cards,” she said.

The process involved a lot of research and consultation with the community, both Indigenous and Non-Indigenous. I explored the value of Indigenous Fire Management in contemporary society specifically its use in response to the recent bush fires in Australia.”

Zara Upfold

Accountability: Assessing the Connection between Government Ideology and Indigenous Recidivism Rates in NSW Prisons

“I was very interested in the treatment of Aboriginal People in Australia as well as Australia’s Shared Histories,” Zara said.

“I thought that by taking Aboriginal Studies, I would be able to learn more about the contextual factors shaping the world around me. And using that knowledge, I would be able to understand and connect with as many Australians as possible, better.”

Zara said that each lesson has shaken her perception of Non-Indigenous culture and broadened her perception of Indigenous culture.

“My Major Project is an essay that argues that the NSW Prison System is not benefitting Aboriginal People, that it is in fact, doing the opposite. In the essay, I deconstruct three key government purposes of sentencing, proving why they are not being applied correctly. The essay also provides a mix of perspectives as well as advice on how to change.”

Eve Mitchell-James

‘their country, their identity’

Eve chose to study the Accelerated Aboriginal Studies course because she had the desire to learn more about Aboriginal culture.

For her Major Project, Eve explored the topics of constitution and governmental policies, connection to country, and identity.

“I connected all these themes through exploring how the Australian constitution and subsequent governmental policies have impacted aboriginal peoples connection to country and how in turn this has impacted their sense of identity,” she said.

“The process of my Major Project first involved researching the different topics, then interviewing a range of Aboriginal people regarding these issues, then creating a work which I thought represented these ideas.”

Zoe Varga

Distant Memory

“I want to be an instigator in the future of Indigenous Australian rights and freedoms, and education and perspective are necessary aspects of that,” Zoe said.

Zoe said she has enjoyed learning about the socioeconomic factors improving or debilitating Indigenous health, and the comparative studies we’ve done on International Indigenous communities.

“Exploring a global community and recognising those issues in modern society, (and where they originated from) are so important and key to improvement,” she said.

“I wanted to explore the Invasion of Australia through a visual medium of landscapes. By stripping back my processes and constructing analysis through my individual perspective and Indigenous artists’, I wanted to educate myself and portray that process.”

Tiger Christensen

LGBTQ + Aboriginal Mental Health

Tiger chose Aboriginal Studies because it was a mixture of creative and content based work. He also wanted the opportunity to learn about Aboriginal culture.

“The Stolen Generations is something that you hear about a lot in Australia, but it is usually from a white perspective or at least filtered through a white perspective. In class, I got to understand the impacts and implications such events had on the Aboriginal populations then and now,” Tiger said.

“My project was an investigation into the experiences of queer Aboriginal people with mental health and the services they are provided. I first looked at the mental health statistics for queer people and Aboriginal people compared to the rest of the Australian population, and then I looked into the services catered specifically towards the intersection between the communities and reached out to as many as I could,” he said.

“I also reached out to individuals in the community and conducted interviews where I asked their opinions on the resources available to their community and their own experience with mental health.

“Once I had enough consultations I compiled them onto a website and evaluated the response.”

Nancy Bertoli

Bush Garden and Stage 2 Sustainability

Since participating in Red Earth, Nancy knew Aboriginal Studies was something she wanted to pursue.

“Each topic is interesting in its own way. Personally I think it is so important that everyone learns these things in order to create open mind-sets amongst all generations and to close the gap,” she said.

“I chose to research the topics of Aboriginal Land Management, and the effects on the land when we do not consult with Aboriginal peoples.

Nancy made a garden on the School rooftop to demonstrate the importance of Aboriginal Land Management.

“I also had a component in which I related my project to the sustainability unit in year 4, and I compiled a number of teaching resources. The Year 4 Teachers can use these in order to incorporate Aboriginal Land management into their unit, under the cross-curriculum learning priorities of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Histories and Cultures.”

“Aboriginal people know this land better than anyone, and the management process from other places will not work here. I chose to research this due to its prevalence in contemporary Australia. Things such as the horrific fires of last summer, and sustainability.”

Ava Jenkin

The Invasion of Traditional Knowledge: Bush Medicine in the Commercial Age

“I knew I wanted to do this course before going into Year 11,” Ava.

“This country’s Indigenous history is not something we learn about in High School History classes, and I have always felt that it is an ignored subject of importance.

For her Major Project, Ava wrote a report about traditional knowledge surrounding Indigenous bush medicines.

“I explored how colonial experiences and attitudes have affected the commercial process, and how faults in consulting Indigenous communities has led to exploitation,” she said.

“The most enjoyable aspect of the Major Project has definitely been talking with communities. I learned the most invaluable knowledge by traveling to North Stradbroke Island and to Coffs Harbour to talk to Indigenous Elders, and it was an irreplaceable experience to be met by such wise people who encouraged their traditional knowledge to be passed on for cross-cultural education.”

Allegra Welsh

The Butterfly Effect

Allegra has always enjoyed studying and learning humanities and has most enjoyed learning about social justice and human rights in the Aboriginal Studies course.

Her Major Project was an Investigation Into the Lasting Effects of Colonial Attitudes Throughout History on Contemporary Australian Society.

“The main topics discussed were the impacts of early colonisation on Aboriginal people, government policies, legislation and their impacts on Aboriginal people, legal decisions and protests and their impact on Aboriginal people, and an insight into Australian society today,” she said.

“To complete it I had to do a lot of research, whatever consultation I could find given the circumstances and write close to 20,000 words.”

Charlotte Venning

Food fusion: Italian and Native Australian

While travelling abroad in Year 8, Charlotte was asked about Aboriginal culture, and she was shocked with how little she knew. She chose to study Aboriginal Studies at IGS to deepen her knowledge.

“I think the Major project is probably the thing I’ve enjoyed the most as I could do something that I connected with and grew up with. Food culture which for me is extremely important and a big part of connecting to my Italian culture, I learnt so much and got to meet so many amazing people throughout the project,” Charlotte said.

As part of her Major Project Charlotte made a recipe book that was a fusion between Italian and Native Australian.

“I then explored the ingredients, their health benefits and uses, Dreaming stories, articles about communities starting up in the bush food industry, and I also looked at the National Native Bushfood symposium which had the key objectives they are working on. I basically based my project on this.”

Thomas Loh

The importance of traditional bush medicines

Thomas explored the importance of traditional bush medicines in an essay.

Thomas looked into one particular tribe, the Kamilaroi Nation, who are located towards the north of New South Wales.

“Their strong knowledge of native bush medicines is seen prominently throughout their culture and beliefs,” Thomas wrote.

“Their extensive knowledge is also supported through modern medical studies which show conclusive evidence to support the effectiveness of many of these bush medicines.”

India Pardoel

Connection to a dying country

After developing an interest in political and social justice, India decided to deepen her learning of Aboriginal culture.

“I thought it was important as well as extremely insightful to learn about the culture and continuous struggles of First Nations People, that was otherwise not taught in my other classes,” she said.

“I was especially interested in the political and social justice aspects of the course, having some exposure through activism, but wanting to learn more.

“My Major Project is in an essay format and I discuss the barriers to, and expressions of Connection to Country. This includes the implementation of community-led Land Management, climate change adaptation, and the political fight for land and ownership.”

Daniel O'Shea

Investigations into Government policies on social exclusion

Daniel was interested in pursuing an education in Aboriginality, and prior to studying the course, he hadn’t been exposed to Aboriginal history or culture in a meaningful way.

“I was planning to complete an Aboriginal Studies course as part of my HSC anyway, but I knew that completing it via compression would allow me to work in a more focused, concise and collaborative learning environment,” he said.

“I found Native Title to be a really interesting topic, as it is something so central to the Aboriginal Land Rights movement yet is also widely misunderstood.

“My Major Project was a report investigating the effectiveness of a selection of Australian Government Policies in achieving their goals of reducing Social Exclusion within the scope of each respective program.”

Grace Fusco

Aboriginal Nations of Australia Map

As an Australian, Grace feels it is necessary to know and understand the history of the land we live on in order to respect the traditional owners of the land.

“The nature of the class is based around discussion and communication, but most of all I enjoy learning the content as knowledge of the history of Indigenous Australia is very important to know in today’s society,” Grace said.

For her Major Project, Grace chose to paint a mural on the School roof of the map of Indigenous Australia.

“Initially it was meant to be completed with the community, however, COVID limited my ability to do so. The work is focused on educating the younger years and creating representation within the School.”

Chloe Walsh

Native Flora Teaching Kit

Choosing Aboriginal Studies was a no brainer for Chloe, who wanted to know more in order to be more educated on the problems going on in her own country.

Chloe’s Major Project is a multi-stage teaching kit about native edible and medicinal plants in Australia and traditional, sustainable land management practices.

“I designed and created a portable garden box featuring eight unique edible and/or medicinal native plants, the portable feature was part of a theoretical aim to be able to take the garden to primary schools across Sydney to educate students on this topic in an incursion form of learning,” she said.

“With my garden came a student work booklet, detailed teacher information cards, and a take-home recipe booklet featuring pictures, information, where to buy native plants, and recipes to utilise them.”

Sophia Mendelsohn-Wright

Mental Health

“Since the arrival of Europeans in Australia, Aboriginal Australians have suffered a myriad of mental and physical health issues,” Sophia said.

“Indigenous Australians have been subjected to pervasive social injustices, including but not limited to high incarceration rates and removal of children from their families.

“Although there have been significant improvements in the last century in the support provided to Aboriginal people, Indigenous communities continue to suffer from the devastating effects of alcohol and other drugs.

“This reality inspired me to interview individuals who have experienced this as Indigenous individuals themselves or as professionals who have witnessed it in their work.

“These interviews have allowed me to gain insight and clarify questions I had about their experiences. In this process, I have gained a greater appreciation of the importance of taking further action and through this booklet, I hope to inspire others to do the same through what I have learned.”

Piper Morrissey


Piper explored and represented intergenerational trauma as a result of the Stolen Generations.

“Reflecting my Major Project, I have addressed the effect that intergenerational trauma has on The Aboriginal Communities, as a result of the Stolen Generations,” said Piper.

“I share this through the physical display of the spoken words, and stories, by those directly impacted.

“Due to the severity in need for awareness surrounding my topic, among Non-Indigenous Australia, I needed to sculpt my artwork to be as distinctive as possible. Including direct quotes in my work always held great priority,” she said.

“I chose to display the text to be seen clearly, only through a mirror, as the words themselves are highly personal and are a reflection of the individual themselves, and the world surrounding them.”

Millie Lambshed

Eddie Betts and the AFL

Through her Major Project, Millie explored racism within the AFL and the wider community.

Using acrylic artwork, Millie used black and white paint to illustrate the face of Eddie Betts.

“My portrait has aimed to reflect the impact that racism can have on a person,” she said.

“I used black and white for the skin tones for two reasons, to remove the focus on race, and also to give a feeling of history, that racism against Indigenous Australians has been around for a long, long time and still exists.

“Standing out against the black and white are the shocking blood red words ‘Monkey See Monkey Do,’ seemingly carved into his skin.”

Louis Williamson

The Stolen Generation

For his Major Project, Louis wrote a rap song dedicated to a member of the stolen generation, Uncle Richard. 

His song is titled “Stolen Generations”.

Louis opened his song with the lyrics “Yeah they were not referred by their name just by their number,” to highlight their loss of identity.

More of his lyrics read:
And there they felt pain every day that they were put under
The stress, every night you sleep free peacefully in your slumber
They were lonely every night listening to thunder
And you’d thought being put on a reserve was hard enough.

Miah Walker

Decolonising the education system

As a young Aboriginal woman, Miah takes on any opportunity to learn more about her culture.

“In this class, I have enjoyed learning about the Stolen Generations the most because there’s so much emotion and history behind this topic and I’d just always found it very easy to focus when talking about this topic,” she said.

“My project was a lecture on the education system and how many flaws surround it, as it is a westernised version.

“There is minimal cultural acceptance in schools, so my lecture was based on the issues surrounding that and also what my school could do to have a more culturally warm space for indigenous students.”

Holly Baldwin

Criminal Justice Comparison

Holly focused on Aboriginal Incarceration for her Major Project. Through artistic rendering she was able to portray a jail cell. 

“I wanted to create something that was both artistic but educational,” Holly said.

“When you open up the CD cases that are representative of jail cells, you can read about facts of aboriginal incarceration.”

Emilia Ritchie

Aboriginal education resource kit

Emilia created an educational resource kit as part of her Major Project.

Emilia created a Kahoot! game which featured common words used by Gadigal people of the Eora Nation.

Kahoot! is a game-based learning platform, used as educational technology in schools and other educational institutions.

David Thom

Inter-generational poverty

David’s documentary takes an in depth and personal look at the causes and effect of intergenerational poverty in Aboriginal communities.

“It’s easy to look at Aboriginal communities and believe they’re lazy, don’t try and are at fault for their socio-economic situation. But how is it possible for an entire race, community and group of people to all be at fault for living in poverty?,” David said.

“The answer is they couldn’t. If a group of people is forced into poverty it will take them generations upon generations to climb back out again.

“Swimming against the stream of racism, intergenerational trauma, unemployment and failures in education. That’s what this documentary aims to look at.”