The finale to Education Week celebrations at Walcha Central School (WCS) was a National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC) march last Friday down the main street of Walcha followed by Aboriginal cultural activities back at the school.
Instrumental to these events was WCS Student Learning Support Officer and Relieving Aboriginal Education Officer Karen Bloomfield who said that while nationally recognised NAIDOC Week celebrations had been running in Walcha for numerous years, this was the first year a local NAIDOC committee had been established with representatives from Walcha Central School, health services, Amaroo Local Aboriginal Land Council (LALC) and community members.
“We wanted to show the community the unity between aboriginal and non aboriginal people hence the march,” Ms Bloomfield said.
“More than 200 people marched including community members; Amaroo LALC; Walcha Central School students and staff; St Patrick's Primary School students and staff; and Woolbrook Primary School students and teachers.
“We also had Walcha Shire Council members attend as well,” Ms Bloomfield said.
Back at WCS students from all participating schools took part in Aboriginal themed activities following a welcome to country by Dunghutti elder Esther Quinlin who travelled up from Kempsey for the occasion and stressed the importance of the kinship system within the Aboriginal community.
“In the WCS Multi Purpose Centre, the children made rainbow serpent puppets, scratch board art, created turtles, boomerang painting, dot painting and jewellery making.
Another group listened to an artefacts talk with Uncle Garry Towney while in the library Aunty Esther told the story of the local totem,the praying mantis, and how the rainbow serpent made the local landforms including Apsley Falls.
“During the week Michael Heazlett and I delivered the community of schools project to Walcha Central School and St Patrick’s students which was creating a manual on making traditional aboriginal tools such as spears for boys and clapsticks for girls,” said Ms Bloomfield.
“We also used the Dunghutti dictionary to translate words.”
The theme of NAIDOC celebrations this year was the importance, resilience and richness of the Aboriginal language.
The Walcha Central School Dunghutti Dance Group was formed for the events last week and will continue each year.
“Each we will use the theme of NAIDOC week to continue to celebrate each year,” said Ms Bloomfield.
“Especially for our children as I believe this is about closing the gap and sharing and respecting the oldest living culture in the world. What better way to do that than through education, WCS Principal Mark Hall and St Patrick’s Principal Michael Ball have both been fantastic and very supportive.”
The feedback from the week has been very positive according to Ms Bloomfield and she hopes to continue combing the NAIDOC and education Week events each year to show what a great community Walcha has.
“I would like to thank everyone who helped and made the week fantastic,” said Ms Bloomfield.
“There are way too many to name but they know who they are.”