Bathurst Regional Council, NSW
River Connections is an experiential, engaging nature-based program to connect school students in Bathurst with the Wambuul/Macquarie River bringing together Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to share skills and experiences. Participating students engage in a value-based learning program including Wiradyuri cultural perspectives, science, art, and inquiry-based exploration. Bathurst Regional Council has partnered on River Connections with the Wiradyuri Elders of Gunhigal Mayiny Wiradyuri Dyilang Enterprise, who deliver the cultural education sessions in the program.
The program is targeted towards Stage 3 students and is designed to align with curriculum, in particular the cross-curriculum priorities of Sustainability and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures. This program raises awareness of local Indigenous culture and assists in teaching non-Indigenous people the significance of Aboriginal culture. The program connects strongly with Geography and Science, and links can also be made with English, Art and HPE. The first 12 months of the program has seen 300 students participate, from 4 schools across the Bathurst Region, with an additional 3 schools booked in over the coming months.
The project has strengthened and promoted Indigenous culture, traditions and languages through teachings directly from Wiradjuri Elders to local children. As part of the program, the Elders welcome students to the Wambuul/Macquarie River where students learn about the Wiradjuri language, the significance of the river for resources and spirituality, areas where food was to be collected, how to build fish traps, how ochre was used for ceremony, what wood and stone tools were used by Wiradjuri people, and social responsibility for the river. Furthermore, the Elders shared the meaning for yindyamarra, which means to do something politely, slowly, respectfully, gently and with honour. Students then go back to the classroom to apply their learnings and share their knowledge with other students via art making, podcasting or video making.
This program raises awareness and understanding of the importance of Aboriginal culture, which then encourages children to continue the respect from their teachings. Not only are children in River Connections learning the importance of Indigenous culture, they are then using it in the classroom in a meaningful, real world context.
The Award Category
This category recognises Indigenous employees and Indigenous initiatives in local government that:
- achieve representation of indigenous people in their community and inform local government activities and policies
- overcome inequality between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples through community based policies and programs that are done in partnership with local indigenous people
- have explicit indigenous employment goals, strategies and support mechanisms such as indigenous cadetship programs, mentoring and cultural awareness initiatives or
- have an outstanding indigenous employee who is making a difference to their community and workplace by delivering high quality projects and outcomes.
Successful projects in this award category benefit communities by:
- bringing together Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples and communities to share skills and experiences
- undertaking projects that reinforce, strengthen and promote Indigenous culture, traditions and languages
- raising awareness and understanding of the importance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages and culture and
- building positive and productive relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians through policies and programs.