Becoming buddies with Bettongs
Few children across Australia have the opportunity to get up close to a variety of native animals, but there are plenty in the SA Arid Lands that have thanks to an interactive kid’s theatre show that travelled throughout the region in May.
Bettongs & Buddies featured Rufous, a young bettong following his dream of becoming a violinist.Along the way he encountered other creatures who taught him and the audience what it meant to be a bettong, and a critical member of his ecosystem.
His journey introduced a range of native creatures, including a carpet python, dunnart, numbat, gecko and quoll.
Each new animal friend Rufous met on his adventure gave him a gift which, when put together at the end of the show, formed a special surprise that struck a chord with the primary school audiences.
The roadshow event visited Oodnadatta Aboriginal School, Leigh Creek Area School, Roxby Downs, Quorn Town Hall and the Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden in Port Augusta. More than 450 people from across the region watched the performance.
It included a variety of live native animals and touch tables full of animal specimens, skins and feathers.
Much like other native Australian species, the range of all five native bettong species is shrinking due to the expansion of agriculture and the introduction of feral predators such as cats and foxes. The Rufous bettong was once found from Cape York in Far North Queensland to central Victoria, but has been reduced to a patchy distribution from Cooktown, Queensland to north-eastern NSW. The desert bettong, which is now extinct, was last recorded in the Northern Territory in 1933, but is believed to have survived in the Tanami Desert until the 1960s.
Gawler Ranges Landscape Group Community Landscape Officer Chris Fulton said the community-focused production was designed to raise awareness of the region’s natural values and connect younger audiences to nature.
“The production company performed to sell-out crowds in Adelaide and the tour gave outback children similar educational experiences to those in the city,” he said.
For the DunnART team, performing at Oodnadatta Aboriginal School was a special experience. Being one ofthe most remote public schools in Australia, they do not get many visitors and students were waiting at the front gate of the school to see the DunnART team and the wildlife.
Future events with DunnART productions are already on the radar for the SA Arid Lands, so stay tuned.