Indigenous Education @ Pembroke. (IE@P)

Naa marni? This is a traditional greeting in Kaurna language, meaning ‘Hello, how are you?’

I would like to acknowledge that our School is located on the traditional country of the Kaurna people of the Adelaide Plains. As a school we recognise and respect their cultural heritage, beliefs and relationship with the land, and acknowledge their ongoing significance today and into the future.

Pembroke’s Indigenous students come from a diverse array of cultural groups and regions, including the Torres Strait Islands, Kakadu, Arnhem Land, Darwin, Alice Springs, Halls Creek and Oodnadatta. They have strong connections with their communities, including that at Pembroke and within the IE@P group.

Our first outing together this year was to attend the Smith Family Class of 2015 Graduation Ceremony at the University of Adelaide. Keenan represented Pembroke admirably as he delivered the acknowledgment of country. Through the various presentations and a Q&A session with graduates, we were reminded of the important work of The Smith Family in providing educational support to young people. Russell Ebert, Port Adelaide Football Club icon, also offered some inspirational advice to the audience.

On the March long weekend, with old scholar Brenz Saunders as a mentor, the group headed to Port Elliot for the annual Indigenous Student Leadership Camp. The students enjoyed the opportunity to relax together, play guitar, and compete in UNO and table tennis tournaments. We participated in a range of activities that included bike riding, raft building, surfing and kayaking to strengthen our ties as a group. We also took the opportunity to reflect on our directions as individuals and as a team. With time for quiet reflection, the students identified and discussed what is important to them, as well as their strengths, challenges and goals. It proved to be a very productive leadership camp.

Reconciliation Week is an important occasion in Australia’s calendar; its purpose is to celebrate and build on the respectful relationships shared by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians. With an inspiring theme, ‘Our History, Our Story, Our Future’, the week raised awareness of reconciliation and was a proud celebration of culture.

Reconciliation Week events began with the annual breakfast at the Adelaide Convention Centre. Pembroke was well represented by staff and students, and we took the opportunity to invite a group from Le Fevre High School as well. We listened to original music by singer/songwriter Nathan May and enjoyed Allan Sumner’s artwork. The passionate and thought-provoking speakers included three Aboriginal young achievers, as well as RECOGNISE campaign’s Youth Reps and Campaign Director Tanya Hosch.

Jenice, a keen art student, created a design to represent Indigenous Education at Pembroke, its symbolism delivering a strong message. Brenz explains that the design celebrates identity, strength and unity, while also recognising cultural attachment to the land. Jenice’s artwork, converted into Pembroke colours, was featured on the unique Indigenous Round sports uniforms. The design was also printed on the National Reconciliation Week T-shirts, which are now being worn across Australia.

Inspired by the spontaneous decoration of Michael's football jumper last year, the idea of hosting our own Indigenous Round was embraced by the Sport Department and led to its inauguration at Pembroke. It proved to be a significant and special event in the School’s history. With a backdrop of gums and the rhythmic sounds of the didg, the smoking ceremony was a moving salute to Indigenous culture. Markell played the yidaki (the traditional name for a didgeridoo) with his grandfather Mr Phillip Allen, and Jenice and Keenan addressed the crowd. Special guests included our inaugural Indigenous Student Coordinator Ms Grandison, and Miss Binmila Yunupingu who travelled from the Northern Territory to present the Yunupingu Cups, with her nephews Michael and Richard by her side.

Reconciliation Week also offered an opportunity for our Indigenous students to speak to their peers in Middle School Assembly and Senior School Chapel. Below are extracts from the Middle School speech:

Trevina: Werte arritne archina anema Trevina, arritne ampure mparntwe. This means, ‘Hello, my name is Trevina. My home is Alice Springs’ in my language. My people are the Arrente clan, the traditional custodians of central Australia. My dreaming is the Yiperenye, which is a caterpillar. On my mum’s side I am from the Dieri people near Marree.

Kanisha: I’m a Torres Strait Islander. My family is from the Wagadagum clan from Badu Island. Our culture is based upon family and the environment. My totem is the koedal, which is a crocodile, and it is my clan’s duty to protect and never harm the animal.

Delise: My home is in the central part of Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory. My father is from the Bunitj clan in the Northern part of Kakadu. My mother is from the Murumburr clan in the central part of Kakadu near Yellow Water along the Jim Jim River. My grandmother Violet teaches us to speak Gundjeihmi, the language of the Murumburr people. It is important culturally for my family to continue art and craft such as weaving baskets, bracelets and mats out of natural fibres and dyes. Hunting and gathering are also important to continue as the ecological knowledge gained from this activity guides us in our fire and land management obligations. Keeping cultures alive is important, as it defines who we are.

Markell: I am from Oodnadatta and my people are the Pitjantjatjara. When I was younger my nanna taught me how to hunt and skin an animal, but most of my hunting skills just came naturally. My nanna also taught me a dreamtime story about the goanna and the perentie. I was taught to play the yidaki by my grandfather, Phillip Allen. I began when I was about 9 years old. A yidaki is made from a piece of timber that is hollow due to termites. The bark is removed and it is often decorated. It is played by men in traditional ceremonies.

Richard: I’m from Arnhem Land in the north east of the Northern Territory. I am a Yolngu man. My totem is the burru, the crocodile.

Richard presented a music mix inspired by a song called Baru by his great uncle Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, about his totem the crocodile. It included Markell playing the yidaki.

Mr Lush also embraced the theme of reconciliation in his Chapel services. During the Senior School service Kanisha and Cassie shared their thoughts on reconciliation. This topic was also the subject of the Reconciliation SA Schools’ Congress that was attended by a group of Years 10 and 11 students. Stirred by the words of a Kaurna elder, singer Ellie Lovegrove and Amnesty International volunteers, and having participated in interactive activities run by Act Now, the group devised many creative ideas for promoting the reconciliation message at Pembroke.

At the end of Term 2, the newly created Pembroke Indigenous Education Reference Group met to discuss a range of issues. With representatives from the Smith Family, AISSA and the Pembroke community (including staff, old scholars and family members), the conversation was thought-provoking and exciting. Our most immediate focus is Pembroke’s Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) and we are currently organising a series of events, to build upon the ones mentioned above, to ignite the reconciliation conversation at Pembroke. I look forward to working with this group and our students to create a purposeful RAP designed to celebrate and continue Pembroke’s reconciliation journey.

The Years 9 and 10 Indigenous students thoroughly enjoyed visiting Miss Battye’s and Mr Manning’s Year 3 classes recently, to talk about their culture. Topics covered included the medicinal qualities of the Kakadu plum, turtle tagging, playing the yidaki, and hunting and eating turtles, crocodiles, snakes and kangaroos. We were impressed with the students’ enthusiasm, questions and vocabulary and had a great time.

This term I accompanied four students to Sydney for the Indigenous Youth Leadership Project’s National Gathering run by The Smith Family. Students from across Australia gathered to celebrate their culture, learn from members of the Indigenous and wider community, and develop their skills as the next generation of Indigenous leaders. Most memorable was a performance of traditional dances and songs on a peaceful island in the middle of bustling Sydney Harbour.

It has been delightful to catch up with our Marree friends again this year. The relationship between the Pembroke and Marree communities has a long history and is one that we value highly.
With a fine group of students and a supportive community, the Indigenous Education Program at Pembroke continues to flourish.

Ms Davis
Indigenous Student Coordinator

(To preview photo gallery, please click on a photo below).