By Sarah Hnatiuk, Friends of Mt Painter Convenor
A chance event six years ago that involved a Macquarie Primary School teacher and a member of Friends of Mount Painter (FOMP) has led to a lasting relationship between the school and the the group that tends the reserve. Each year since, a number of classes have visited the hill, and sometimes FOMP members have been invited to join them. This happened most recently in connection with Reconciliation Week. The first and second graders have been studying conservation and sustainability so the event was perfectly timed.
FOMP ran a couple of activities for the students. First, we drew on information from Wally Bell, a Ngunnawal elder, and from the book, Ngunnawal Plant Use. We also took photos of some of the trees and shrubs that were used by the Ngunnawal peoples. Using the photos and information, one of the teachers put together a ‘scavenger hunt’ in which the students had to match the photos to the plants pictured and read about the uses each had. To make it a little easier we marked the plants with fluoro tape.
The second activity developed from memories of hearing Rod Mason, a Ngarigo elder, talk of how his ancestors sometimes carried seed with them as they travelled through the land. Where they saw a likely, useful spot for that species to grow, they pushed a few seeds into the soil. We therefore asked the students to sow some kangaroo grass seed on recently weeded bare areas near one of the reserve’s entrances where we are restoring the grassy ground cover. Wearing our modern day conservationist hats, we also provided seed from other grasses to increase the diversity of the flora.
On the day of the visit, students, teachers and some parents walked two kilometres from the school and then heard from one of the FOMP members about some of the daily activities of Ngunnawal families. They then embarked on the activities, two classes planting while the others ‘hunted’, after which the pairs of classes switched activities. The students were particularly intrigued by silver wattle’s several uses: the wood for digging sticks, the sap for glue and the bark for string. And they enjoyed stamping in the sown seeds.
We finished the morning by the visitors and FOMP members giving each other three cheers.