It wasn’t just bush tucker on the menu at Jigamy this week.
Over 500 local primary students visited the Aboriginal Keeping Place to take part in cultural activities to mark NAIDOC Week, and they learnt the art of boomerang throwing, traditional art and dance, the use of Aboriginal tools and how to make bush tucker.
Eden Public School students were among them, with students from years 3-6 also treated to displays and stories from Aboriginal elders, a performance from the Koori Dance Group, and the chance to go on a bush tucker walk.
Yuin elder, Pastor Ossie Cruse, says NAIDOC Week is an important occasion to pass knowledge and understanding of Aboriginal culture on to our young people.
“NAIDOC isn’t just significant for Aboriginal people, it’s significant for the whole of Australia,” he said.
“A terrible stigma built up over the years that because there were no fences, roads or houses when [the settlers] came here, the country was just empty and vacant.
“They didn’t realise that what our people had was connected to the environment, so NAIDOC is all about showing our lifestyle and how we have our culture, medicine, food and technology.
Eden Public School students learn the art of boomerang throwing:
“There is a real communal spirit here; this is something that we’re all sharing in together and learning from, and when you look around, there is a big smile on everyone’s face.”
This year marks the fifth time that the events have been held in their current form, and organiser Sue Norman says it is the biggest yet with over 30 members of the local Koori community employed to run the activities.
She said students from Eden, Pambula and Merimbula are being joined by those from as far as Tanja, Bega, Tathra, Mumbulla, Candelo and Wolumla over three days.
“We are keen to involve as many of the local community as possible,” Sue said.
“This gives a chance for the elders to pass on their knowledge and experience to the younger generation and to ensure we have a large group to draw on for when the culture centre opens in the not too distant future.”
The events were organised by the Aboriginal Culture Centre Monaroo Bobberer Gudu in partnership with the Bournda Environmental Education Centre and the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
Bournda EEC principal Doug Reckord says he is privileged to be a part of it.
“It’s an important part of any student’s learning to understand the history of Australia and Aboriginal culture, and this day does it in spades,” he said.
“We can’t call ourselves a real country while we’ve still got this division.
“Ossie normally plays ‘We are Australian’ on the gum leaf, and unless we acknowledge the first Australians, we don’t understand who we are.
“I really applaud the teachers and the students, because it doesn’t matter what their background is, they’re all keen to learn.”
This year’s NAIDOC theme of ‘Serving Country’ was represented by banners presenting the story of Koori peoples’ experience of war throughout Australia’s history.
Ossie is a descendant of veteran Harry Thorpe, who was killed in France, while his grandfather Percy Pepper also fought for Australia.
“A lot of our people served and were killed overseas, but they never got any recognition because they were volunteers and weren’t conscripted,” Ossie said.
“That recognition is just starting to pick up now.”