Games connect to aboriginal culture

St Brendan’s Catholic Primary School Annandale held its first Indigenous Games at Glebe’s Jubilee Oval on November 7.

The event comes about six months after the school was the first in the area to launch a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) to promote reconciliation between the wider Australian community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Representatives from Reconciliation Australia and Inner West Council’s Aboriginal Programs Officer Aunty Deborah Lennis attended to support the event.

Aunty Deborah supplied the school a government resource with more than 300 games to choose from that had been adapted for schools students to learn skills young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders would rely on as hunters and gatherers for their communities.

It’s a bunch of fun but with a lot of skills involved.

– Aunty Deborah Lennis

The games also proved a valuable leadership opportunity for Year 6 students who instructed younger schoolmates and eight visiting indigenous students from St James Catholic Primary Glebe in the activities.

“They’re a group of games we used to use for teaching our kids skills like hand-eye coordination – to throw boomerangs and spears, or so they were aware of the refractions in the water when they were spearing fish,” Aunty Deborah said. “For women it was to make sure they had the skills to find food and be very vigilant about what was going on around them. Even tunnel ball was a game based on [spearing]. It was about making sure you could work in unison, and emphasised team work and partnership.

“It gives the students of St Brendan’s and St James a chance to learn without realising they’re learning. It’s a bunch of fun but with a lot of skills involved.

“These days it also gives the kids a chance to realise that we’ve been playing games for a long time. A lot of people don’t realise that Aussie Rules started from a base of an Aboriginal game marngrook. We played with a round possum skin ball, there were more players – about 60 a side – and no such thing as a field, it just kept going.”

Year 6 culture leaders Zoe Fletcher, 12, and Rebecca Tooher, 11, tested the games with their culture leader peers.

It’s important because we get to know … their way of living.

– Georgia Clarke

Zoe knows the acknowledgement of country, which is read at school assemblies every Monday and Friday, by heart.

“Through the games I think you get to see how Aboriginal people interacted with each other and learnt things, and how the things we do and the things they do differ.

“As a culture leader you feel like you have more to give, like you can help to make the school a better place.”

Rebecca said a lot of the games played focused on trust.

“Some of them you have to pretend to be a Kangaroo so you learn about some of the animals, and there are games about hearing your friends and recognising sounds.

“I like the one Zoe led – Nanyima. You throw the ball back and anyone who catches it has to say a word, anything, and the person who threw the ball has to guess where they are.”

Georgia Clarke, 12, said her favourite of the games was like cricket and that they were a valuable way to learn.  “I think it’s important because we get to know what Aboriginal people did in their spare time, how they learnt and their way of living.”


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