Red dirt reveals rich insight
The vast red sand of the Broken Hill desert revealed the rich heritage of Aboriginal people as Wilyakali Elders explained their culture to early career teachers.
Being taken on a tour of the Living Desert nature reserve and The Pinnacles geological formations and significant sites, enabled the teachers to gain an insight that could not be matched in a classroom lecture.
The teachers' appreciation was enhanced by experiences like discovering remnants of an earth oven used hundreds of years ago by Wilyakali ancestors, listening to local Creation stories and munching on Aunty Dulcie's Johnny cakes.
The Elders agree that instilling an insight into Aboriginal culture can foster improved outcomes for Aboriginal students in the schools where the early career teachers will work.
School Services Curriculum and Teacher Quality Adviser, Judith Selby, said there was an emphasis on fostering cultural awareness for early career teachers with the Community members whose country they are now living and working on.
"We're very aware of the need for that connection to Community to occur early," Ms Selby said.
"It is important to build relationships and make those connections to ensure that the needs of our students are understood and catered for.
"Developing cultural understanding in the local context can make a very real difference in how teachers work with their students and build meaningful relationships with families and the wider community."
The Broken Hill initiative was suggested by Alma Public School teacher and Wilyakali woman Sandra Clark who joined Elders to share her cultural stories with colleagues.
The NSW Department of Education is committed to increasing knowledge and understanding of the histories, cultures and experiences of Aboriginal people as the First Peoples of Australia.
An agreement has been forged with the NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group Inc (AECG) to conduct the Healthy Culture: Healthy Country cultural immersion initiative which focuses on teacher professional learning.
The AECG delivers this professional learning program which helps build cultural competency.
It helps inform teaching methods to maintain and advance Aboriginal languages and cultures in NSW public schools.
Participants learn how to work with their local community and the local AECG to develop a localised Aboriginal cultural curriculum.
Healthy Culture: Healthy Country is the only known cultural studies program designed for the NSW syllabus.
(IMAGE of Paakantyi Wilyakali Elder Dulcie O'Donnell showing an ancient oven to teachers by Sophie Wainwright, ABC News, Broken Hill)