|A Message Stick has been sent out from a primary school in New South Wales. In an ambitious and innovative project, the Message Stick will travel through the Dare to Lead Action Areas of that state, promoting Reconciliation and the teaching of Indigenous-themed curriculum along the way.
SCHOOL: Fennell Bay Public School is a government primary school located on the western shore of Lake Macquarie, south of Newcastle in NSW. Of the school's 300 students, 57 identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander.
INFORMATION FROM: Principal Nielsine Oxenford, AEA Tracey Walpole, local Elder Gary 'Pop' Simon.
In July 2006 Fennell Bay PS inaugurated a Message Stick project. A Message Stick created and designed by local Elders in conjunction with the school was launched via a ceremony at the school's special site Boomerang Mountain. The Message Stick will travel to schools within each of the New South Wales Dare to Lead Action Areas. Each school receiving the Message Stick commits to hold an appropriate ceremony and undertake two curriculum-based activities, which will then be recorded centrally on the Dare to Lead website.
"The Message Stick idea is part of our overall focus on Reconciliation," Tracey Walpole says. "This is Awabakal land, and Pop and Nan Simon represent the traditional owners. This project is about identity, about connecting kids with their own land, even if they don't live in their own Country. We decided the best way to drive it was to use Dare to Lead, to work within the Action Area framework to connect communities all over NSW.
"At all of the Indigenous education events that I have attended over the past ten years, it seems that there are two questions asked beyond all others:
I believe that this project addresses both questions. We hope that we will develop hundreds of curriculum-based activities through this project that will form a great resource that can be shared throughout the Dare to Lead network. When the Message Stick goes to a school it will not just be received by one Elder; schools will commit to invite all appropriate people, to make contact with their local Land Council and so on. It will help generate connections with the community and also generate curriculum ideas which can be used in any school."
- How can we get our Aboriginal community involved in our school?
- How can non-Indigenous teachers become confident to teach Aboriginal themes?
THE MESSAGE STICK:
The Message Stick is hollow (a rolled-up piece of paper can be held inside it) and made of wood painted with culturally significant symbols:
|Dark brown on the top of the stick represents Boomerang Mountain where its journey began.|
|The yellow represents the light of the stick to start its journey.|
|The white represents the school and Aboriginal community partnership.|
|The dots also represent our family circles.|
|The winding yellow is a pathway, its journey throughout our land that carries the message of knowledge, wisdom, understanding, peace and harmony in our schools.|
|The brown boomerangs represent our Elders accepting the message stick.|
|The white circles represent our schools and principals.|
|The dark brown zigzag represents the mountains to be crossed, and the plains are represented by the natural timber.|
|The blue represents the largest saltwater lake in the southern hemisphere, Lake Macquarie, which is located at the front of Fennell Bay Public School.|
|The green leaves represent spiritual ceremonies which will protect and guide it on its journey over the lands to educate future generations through our schools.|
When the message stick is finished taking the light to our family circles, it will begin its journey home.
The Message Stick rests in a Coolamon. The Coolamon represents Aboriginal women hunting, and everyday life. It was what Aboriginal women used to carry their babies in, berries, water and also a digging tool.
The Message Stick was created and designed by Westlakes Aboriginal Elders Gary Simon, Jerry Edwards, Brenda Simon, Dorothy Stewart, Becky Simon, Barbara Green and Dorris Edwards in partnership with Fennell Bay Public School.
Boomerang Mountain is also known as the Turrah-Mah Algona Meeting Place. It was developed in 2004 as a meeting and teaching place located within Fennell Bay PS grounds, a place to promote culture.
WHAT THE PROJECT MEANS:
Pop Simon: "This is a forever thing. I would like to thank Dare to Lead for taking part in this program. It is a very special thing. I was invited to Sydney to see the Message Stick going around Catholic Schools and I thought, why can't we do this here in our school? It's a spiritual thing. We would like you to enjoy it. It is a bit heartbreaking to actually let it go, but it has a long journey to complete."
Tracey Walpole: "It was wonderful to have the Westlakes Elders as part of the Message Stick creation, because to my knowledge this is the first time they have been involved in our school. This project is for the kids and for the future."
Nielsine Oxenford: "We are privileged and proud that Pop Simons has chosen us as the starting point. We are part of something very special. We are in a place where we can go forwards and really create something meaningful.
"The kids respect one another at this school. Everyone does. I'm not sure where that comes from - a lot of work over a lot of years. Many kids have some issues at our school. Many families struggle economically. But this is a place where there is acceptance and respect. There is a wonderful staff, people who care about the kids and how they learn.
"We make sure there is cultural recognition on an every-day basis, not just on NAIDOC. Aboriginal students are highly successful in all of our leadership, cultural and sporting programs. We have parents who are comfortable coming into the school."
The Message Stick will travel around NSW from Action Area to Action Area following the timetable below. Each Action Area Contact Principal will arrange for the Message Stick to spend time in at least four schools in the Action Area. Please contact your Action Area Contact to book up your week with the Message Stick.
|Action Area||Start School||Timeframe|
|Newcastle||Waratah West PS||September 2006|
|Maitland Muswellbrook||Irrawang PS||October 2006|
|Taree||Manning Gardens PS||November 2006|
|Port Macquarie||Kempsey South PS||December 2006|
|Coffs Harbour||Woolgoolga HS||February 2007|
|Lismore||Whyralla Rd PS||March 2007|
|Tweed Ballina||Brunswick Heads PS||April 2007|
|Moree||Mungindi Central||May 2007|
|Tamworth||Carroll PS||June 2007|
|Inner West||Glenroi Heights PS||July 2007|
|Western||Buninyong PS||August 2007|
|Bourke||Walgett College||September 2007|
|Broken Hill||Menindee Central||October 2007|
|Deniliquin Albury||Balranald Central||November 2007|
|Wagga||Ashmont PS||December 2007|
|Far South Coast||Bega HS||February 2008|
|Mid South Coast||Sussex Inlet PS||March 2008|
|Wollongong||Tarrawanna PS||April 2008|
|Sutherland||Canterbury PS||May 2008|
|Port Jackson||St Andrews||June 2008|
|Bondi||Bourke St PS||July 2008|
|Sydney South West||Blaxcell St PS||August 2008|
|Campbelltown||Thomas Reddell HS||September 2008|
|Liverpool||Ashcroft PS||October 2008|
|Penrith||Nepean High||November 2008|
|Mt Druitt||Chifley Dunheved||December 2008|
|Sydney West||Seven Hills North PS||February 2009|
|Sydney North West||Metella Rd PS||March 2009|
|Sydney North||Naraweena||April 2009|
|Central Coast||Northlakes PS||May 2009|
|Lake Macquarie||Bonnells Bay PS||June 2009|
|Back to Pop Simon||Fennell Bay PS||July 2009|
MORE INFORMATION: 02 4959 2264 or firstname.lastname@example.org