Old Noarlunga Primary School

Connecting to Country through art and plants at Old Noarlunga Primary School

How it all began

In 2016, the Student Representative Council told teachers they wanted a greater variety of play spaces at school.

The school’s Aboriginal Community Education Officer (ACEO), Jake, and grounds person Dylan had been considering possible projects they could undertake to connect with Aboriginal culture and quickly realised that an outdoor, hands-on project with long-term learning opportunities was going to be a great solution to these needs.

They decided to grow bush tucker plants in a traditional-use garden to highlight some of the food sources in the area. Jake said, “a few of our families don’t live on their Country, so they’re not able to be out with their Aunties and Uncles, Nannas and Pops… so it’s good for the parents to know that their kids can come here and learn about bush tucker stuff and about the Country that they are on.”

Sam Ryan, Green Adelaide Education Officer, assisted with resources and ran a planting workshop with Jake, Dylan and the Aboriginal students. They planted Ruby Saltbush (Enchylaena tomentosa) which has red and yellow edible berries, the wispy climber Old Man’s Beard (Clematis microphylla), and the prolific edible groundcover Warrigal Greens/Native Spinach (Tetragonia tetragonioides).

Creating the outdoor classroom

Local artist and Ngarrindjeri woman Aunty Daphne Rickett led a workshop to paint the totem poles. The students used traditional and modern techniques to create beautiful and meaningful designs, including species that are important to Aunty Daphne – the Pelican, Emu, and Kondili the Whale; a shared Dreaming Story for Ngarrindjeri, Ramindjeri, and Kaurna peoples.

Jake uses the garden for lessons on bush tucker, exploring how people thrived in Australia on foods from native plant species. Pigments from Ruby Saltbush are used in art lessons, and other ingredients are used for cooking.

Once the sedges are established, students can begin to learn traditional weaving techniques. They also plan to collect seed and propagate plants for fundraising. The outdoor classroom has inspired the school to continue to create similar spaces with local native plants and natural materials.