FACT SHEETS

On Country with the Rosny mob — creating gateways between the past and the future

20.01.20 by Zoë Taylor

Spending time on Country on Tasmania’s rugged east coast gave a group of young Indigenous students the opportunity to reconnect to culture and share knowledge of science.

The senior students from Rosny College, in Hobart, forged deep and lasting connections during the recent three-day camp aimed at creating a fusion of cultural awareness, science, and land management. The camp, at the Oakhampton property near Triabunna, was a collaboration between the college, CABAH researchers from the University of Tasmania and the landholder (Cape Herbert Pty Ltd).

Rosny students and teachers rest on the hilltop
A group of 15 Aboriginal students
came together to be inspired about science and land management.
The camp was supported by:
Cape Herbert Pty Ltd, Landcare Tasmania, National Landcare, Rosny College, the University of Tasmania, and NITA Education.
Utilising the power of smoke for cleansing and beginning camp in a good place. Image: Tessa Smith

Following a Welcome to Country and a smoking ceremony, the group of 15 students enjoyed a combination of cultural activities including making clapsticks and woven string, facilitated by Mitchem Everett from NITA Education, and workshops designed to inspire a passion for science and the environment.

CABAH researchers led sessions about wildlife, including finding and analysing animal bones and insects. The students also learnt how first-hand how to survey animals in their environment and use camera traps to monitor wildlife — capturing images of Tasmanian devils, echidnas, brushtail possums, and pademelons.

Following a Welcome to Country and a smoking ceremony, the group of 15 students enjoyed a combination of cultural activities including making clapsticks and woven string, facilitated by Mitchem Everett from NITA Education, and workshops designed to inspire a passion for science and the environment.

CABAH researchers led sessions about wildlife, including finding and analysing animal bones and insects. The students also learnt how first-hand how to survey animals in their environment and use camera traps to monitor wildlife — capturing images of Tasmanian devils, echidnas, brushtail possums, and pademelons.

“We looked at different insects and arachnids that live around the area, to get the students interested in the role of the bugs within the ecosystem, their diversity and how interesting they are,” said CABAH research assistant  Tessa Smith. “We caught a lot of bugs and looked at them under the microscope.”

Meanwhile, the focus of Matthew McDowell’s session was how animal bones can be used to interpret past landscapes.

“We talked about the different kinds of animal bones we found when walking on Country and I told them about the research I do with archaeologists and Aboriginal communities, using bones to interpret how the old people lived,” he said.

Cathy Ransom is an Aboriginal Educational Worker at Rosny College and attended the camp, as well as the first one held last year at Cockatoo Hills (Highland Conservation Pty Ltd). She was proud and excited to see the students grow during their time on Country.

“We’ve introduced some kids to their culture for the very first time and given them an insight and better understanding of where they fit,” she said. “Other students have deepened their knowledge, respect, and ability to sit within their culture.

“For a lot of kids, this does unlock something they didn’t even know was missing — pride and a link and a strength in them that they can use going forward.”

Everyone appreciates a view: looking at the remains of a living place (midden).
Deadly in ochre. Images: Tessa Smith

Student Jarrod Cripps, was also returning for his second camp with the ‘Rosny mob’. He agreed with Cathy’s sentiments. A highlight for Jarrod was learning what “true reconciliation” between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people looks like.

“To have the opportunity to come to farmland and properties that hold a lot of cultural heritage and to be able to practice cultural heritage is something that is very valued,” he said.

Discarded tools provide a window into the old peoples lives Image: Olivia Hudson
Identifying plants is easy with a Floraflip! Image: Olivia Hudson

Rosny College teacher Mel Wall was delighted to watch the young adults at the camp mature, take on leadership roles, and engage with both their culture and scientific activities.

“Tragedy and trauma, and the scars that it has created, has impacted so negatively on the culture and to see young people taking pride in their culture is so heart-warming,” she said. “I also really love their natural curiosity and engagement.”

The camp was supported by Cape Herbert Pty Ltd, Landcare Tasmania (Tasmanian Landcare Fund), National Landcare program Small Smart Farm Grant (awarded to Rockpool Land & Water Services), Rosny College (Department of Education), the University of Tasmania, and NITA Education.

The camp was hosted by Jason Whitehead who is co-director of Cape Herbert Pty Ltd, landholders at Okehampton.  He is passionate about the opportunities the camps provide for young Indigenous students to learn about land management issues and how science and traditional knowledge can combine to tackle contemporary challenges. A focus of the camp was the work he and others are doing through a National Landcare Programs Small Smart Farm Grant, demonstrating ways to improve the management of sown and native grasslands through the smarter use of technology, grazing, fencing and fire.

“I see a real need for Indigenous voices in land management and I think we need to build capacity for Indigenous students to come into that space and hopefully take pathways, such as tertiary academic research or education through our university systems,” he said.

“We view the camp as an open classroom and a dialogue with a two-way knowledge exchange. We see this as something that is really worthwhile — to invest in the future of these kids.”

CABAH’s Matthew McDowell agreed: “I came away with as much new knowledge as I shared.”

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