Students at La Salle Academy in Lithgow celebrated their own NAIDOC day on Friday, participating in an all-day program led by Wandana Aboriginal educators and Indigenous students who attend the school.
Together, La Salle’s students created a mural that tells the story of the school using traditional Aboriginal symbols and painting techniques.
Wiradjuri artist Eve White designed the mural and led the day’s activities.
“We are creating a modern, contemporary Indigenous artwork that connects the history, values and belief system of the school. Modern because it’s using acrylic paints on canvas.
“It tells the story of the school and based on the idea of all different people uniting together,” Ms White said.
Ms White explained that the centre of the painting shows a meeting place that represents the school and the different paths people travel to get there. The large ‘U’ shapes represent the teachers and parents of the school. The smaller ‘U’ shapes depicts the students and children of the school community. The red cross that flows through the centre of mural represents the Catholic values of the school. The concentric circles and ‘U’ shapes represent the local Wiradjuri people and their connection to Country. The painting also depicts large emu and kangaroo tracks.
She said it was important for Aboriginal knowledge and cultures to be incorporated into schooling.
“We all live on this land and that we have in common. It’s about respect and recognizing that everyone has a unique story. The culture has been lost for so long so it’s important we rejuvenate it.”
Tom Clark, an Indigenous student who attends La Salle, said he really enjoyed leading and helping his fellow students throughout the day’s activities, which also included a smoking ceremony, storytelling, learning about traditional weapons and instruments and painting journey stones.
“We’ve been helping each other through the activities like painting and playing the didgeridoo – I’ve been painting a bit myself,” Tom said.
“It’s important just to show people how Indigenous people used to live before we had access to all the things we have today, as well as to the show the culture.”
Tom said he hadn’t had the opportunity to teach his classmates about his culture before.
“No I don’t think I have. I think we should do it more often. It’s been really fun.”
NAIDOC stands for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee, a group that stemmed from many organisation that sought to bring attention to the treatment of Australia’s first peoples over Australia’s history. NAIDOC celebrations (including NAIDOC Week in July) seek to acknowledge the culture, history and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.