Celebrating Whadjuk country with Indigenous Elder Phil Narkle
Tamara Cymer, a Year 3 teacher at Swan Valley Anglican Community School, Aveley (WA), writes about Phil Narkle’s recent visit to the School to assist her class deliver their message about what we can learn from Aboriginal people, especially with regard to their respect for the land and its sacredness, at their Assembly. The children drew on the Indigenous Elder and local Whadjuk man’s knowledge and experience to encourage their fellow Junior School students to make better choices about their connection with and responsibility to the land upon which their school is built.
Swan Valley Anglican Community School’s (SVACS) Year 3C students chose ‘respect for the land and its sacredness’ as the theme for their Term 3 Assembly. Inspired by their Inquiry Unit which explored Indigenous culture and their Pastoral Care unit which investigated connection they began their Assembly with the following words:
“We have learned by the example of the Aboriginal people that we need to care, respect and love our place. We acknowledge the ongoing and significant role we play in honouring the Whadjuk people’s land and the local Aboriginal sites, such as the local Yagan memorial”.
The class invited Indigenous Elder and local Whadjuk man, Phil Narkle, to attend the Assembly to assist them deliver their message. They hoped his attendance would underscore the importance of their message and encourage Junior School students to make better choices about their connection with and responsibility to the land upon which Swan Valley Anglican Community School is built.
The students wrote prayers to embolden them to take their message beyond the Assembly. One of the prayers they wrote together was:
“Help us to care, love, protect and honour the land.”
They felt they could love and protect the Whadjuk country and their school by keeping it free of damage and rubbish. As members of a global community they also reminded us all to treat the earth lovingly, for the longevity of our planet for all to share.
Aboriginal Elder, Lyall Tilbrook 1 from the Margaret River area, made a message stick for the children so they could symbolically ‘pass’ their message directly to their school community and to the School’s community leaders. Traditionally Aboriginal people had their messages painted or carved into a message stick. Elder Tilbrook engraved traditional Aboriginal symbols representing the Whadjuk country upon which SVACS is built, on the stick. The burnt engravings depicted waterholes, people’s movement over the land, the many nations and the boundaries across the nations.
Elders Narkle and Tilbrook gave authority to the School’s community leaders to continue to espouse the student’s message both orally and by using the message stick.
The Assembly concluded with Phil Narkle celebrating the Year 3 class’s deep awareness to love, protect and care for the Whadjuk land. He acknowledged diversity as well as the importance of dialogue. He was touched by the student’s knowledge and embraced the children’s joy of learning. He will always be a part of the school community in the hearts and minds of the students and we look forward to continuing our dialogue with him.
1 Wardandi Elder Lyall Tilbrook made the gifts that were used by Aboriginal leader, Ken Colburg, when he travelled to Britain to campaign to bring Yagan back to his country in the Swan Valley.