Students dig Aboriginal history

14 November 2011

Ryde Secondary College students learn about the unique culture of our Aboriginal people.

An unusual in-school excursion has allowed a group of Year 7 Ryde Secondary College students to dig into Aboriginal history to learn about the importance of preserving the past.

The 30 students recently took part in a mock archaeological dig, guided by a team from the Aboriginal Heritage Office, to glimpse what lay beneath their school grounds.

The dig gave the students an insight into archaeological practices and an awareness of the local Aboriginal history and culture.

"The excursion was a way for the students to understand the importance of preserving history and Aboriginal sites and to learn about the work of the Aboriginal Heritage Office in an interesting and hands-on way," said Therese Jackson, Ryde Secondary College's Aboriginal education teacher.

The Aboriginal Heritage Office (AHO) is a joint initiative between eight local councils in North Sydney. Its role is to monitor and protect local Aboriginal heritage sites and to educate the community on the value of protecting these sites.

Karen Smith, the Aboriginal Education Officer from the AHO, said the excursion highlighted the "unique culture of Aboriginal people" and allowed students "a window into the work done by the Aboriginal Heritage Office in protecting and conserving these valuable Aboriginal sites".

The students were divided into four teams - named after local Aboriginal language groups - and took turns at scraping out the dirt and examining and recording what was found. The AHO created the dig site and the artefacts found as it is against the law to retrieve actual Aboriginal artefacts without a permit.

This activity taught the students the techniques an archaeologist used in a dig.

"It is very important an archaeologist ensures the context of any artefacts uncovered in an excavation are carefully recorded and conserved from damage. The students learned that a great deal of patience is required for an archaeological dig," said Viki Gordon, an AHO archaeologist.

The students were instructed on the occupational health and safety requirements for fieldwork and the ethical and legal requirements for Aboriginal site management and the profession of archaeology.

"By participating in the mock archaeological dig, the students learn how artefacts assist us today in having a greater insight into the way Aboriginal people lived in the past," Ms Jackson said.

Photos by Gai Krienning and Theresa Jackson

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