Garden fosters cultural understanding

The creation of an Aboriginal food and medicinal garden in a NSW country school has helped foster an inclusive educational environment and serves as a living symbol the school community's respect for its Aboriginal cultural identity.

Portland Central School, near Bathurst, worked closely with the local Aboriginal community to establish the garden.

Under the guidance of Aboriginal Elder Bill Allen, the garden is a celebration of Aboriginal art, culture and flora.

"Our local area community is willing to share its knowledge in bringing a cultural understanding of our significant Indigenous heritage," Portland Central School teacher Mark Campbell said.

"The community has a particular focus in nurturing the relationship with all of our students to ensure they have both a respect and responsibility for this heritage."

The walls around the garden abound with Aboriginal art featuring the rainbow serpent, local area totems, hand stencil motifs and the Aboriginal flag.

"The hand stencils have particular significance as they reflect our students', staff and community's imprints in our collaborative approach as One Mob working together in being active partners in education," Mr Campbell said.

The selection of plants was guided by the school's Aboriginal Education Consultative Committee (AECC).

As well as using the local nursery, local seeds were collected and propagated in the school's greenhouse.

Plants include casuarinas, acacias, banksias, lamandras, hakeas and bracken ferns.

Local artist Dianne Clayton helped develop the students' Aboriginal artistic understanding and skills.

"Both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students had some participation in the garden project through its construction, painting, planting and as a venue for the delivery of further cultural understanding via our local area elders," Mr Campbell said.

The garden has also become an extended classroom where students - 22% of whom are Aboriginal - learn in a different environment.

"Our Norta Norta tutors regularly deliver literacy and numeracy activities to our students in the garden," Mr Campbell said. "They have reported the garden to be a very effective learning space."

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