Connecting with environment and Country at Whyalla NAIDOC week event

28 June 2021

Whyalla schools and environment agencies are combining forces to provide outdoor activities for primary and high school students to connect with Country in celebration of NAIDOC Week.

Staff from Nicolson Avenue Primary School, Whyalla High School, the Eyre Peninsula Landscape Board, and National Parks and Wildlife Service SA, have collaborated on a program of outdoor activities for students to take in during an excursion to the Cowleds Landing Sanctuary Zone at Eight-Mile Creek Beach on Tuesday, June 29.

This year’s NAIDOC Week theme ‘Heal Country’ calls for stronger measures to recognise, protect, and maintain all aspects of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and heritage.

Eyre Peninsula Landscape Board Landscape Officer, Barbara Murphy, said it is fitting these activities are taking place outdoors for connection with the environment and Country.

“These outdoor activities are allowing young people to connect with Country while learning about the local environment and encouraging them to take a role in caring for Country and to become future leaders in land management,” Ms Murphy said.

“Students will be learning about mangrove-saltmarsh ecosystems and how we protect them through our Saltmarsh Threat Abatement and Recovery project. There will also be beach detective activities with National Parks and Wildlife Service SA, nature art, mindfulness meditation, and yarns around the fire talking about what connecting to Country and healing Country means.”

Eyre Peninsula includes the traditional lands and seas of the Barngarla, Nauo, Wirangu, Kokatha and Mirning people. It also hosts a significant number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from other parts of the country.

Jonathan Clark, General Manager of the Eyre Peninsula Landscape Board, said the Board values the opportunity to achieve stronger relationships with Aboriginal people and organisations in South Australia through events like this.

“Reconciliation and meaningful engagement with our first nations and Aboriginal communities is a priority that our Board as a new organisation is keen to pursue,” Mr Clark said.

Dr Shelley Paull, Marine Coordinator with National Parks and Wildlife Service SA who is leading the NAIDOC Week event with Ms Murphy, explains that this this special NAIDOC Week collaboration is also part of a wider festival of events taking part within the Cowleds Landing Sanctuary Zone and the wider Upper Spencer Gulf Marine Park.

“From June to August we have Whyalla’s annual Cuttlefest Festival, with a whole host of activities celebrating the Giant Australian Cuttlefish aggregation; plus in July we celebrate Parks of the Northern Eyre Peninsula as part of the National Parks and Wildlife Service SA ‘Park of the Month’ initiative,” Dr Paull says.

“All of these events aim to connect Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people with the Country and the natural world by encouraging them to experience these places and learn about them. To connect we need to feel, to experience, to learn and to understand.

“With this connection comes caring about the natural world and wanting to protect it; which leads to this year’s NAIDOC Week theme, healing country.

“I really want the community to be able to reconnect with these amazing places that we have in the Whyalla area.”

Last year, more than 200,000 cuttlefish were found along the 8km stretch of rocky coast off Point Lowly, enjoyed by thousands of visitors to Whyalla. This natural phenomena isn’t found anywhere else in the world and is unique to the Upper Spencer Gulf Marine Park. 

 

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