• New grant funding will young Noongar students interacting with their elders in order to learn about traditional land management. (NITV)Source: NITV
A pilot project has been given the green light to expand into another high school where organisers are looking at changing the curriculum to help preserve the culture of one of WA's largest Aboriginal groups.
Rangi Hirini

12 Jun 2019 - 4:47 PM  UPDATED 12 Jun 2019 - 4:47 PM

The South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council has been granted close to $1.2 million to support their educational program which will not only preserve Noongar culture but also introduce Noongar knowledge into high school subjects. 

The funding will support the understanding of land management which will become fundamental for the Noongar Nation ahead of the handing back of land under the South West Settlement. 

West Australian Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ben Wyatt presented a Lotterywest grant of $1,195,800 for a three-year project to expand the Noongar Natural Resource Management Pathways project into Fremantle College in Perth.

Mr Wyatt said the grant would ensure young Noongar people get a chance to understand and learn from Elders about land management.

"We know that when Country is cared for properly, there are educational, environmental, employment and social benefits for Aboriginal people,” Minister Wyatt said in a statement.

"It is important that we provide young people with the skills and training needed to take full advantage of the opportunities that will arise after the commencement of the South West Settlement." 

South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council's (SWALSC) CEO, Wayne Nannup thanked the Minister for the opportunity and emphasised the importance of caring for Country.

“Our children get transfer of knowledge through our Elders and the responsibility for them to understand what caring for Country is and I would like to acknowledge the Elders for the work they’re doing,” he said. 

It’s understood that through the Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA), 320,000 hectares of land will be handed back, on top 55,000 hectares that is already owned. The ILUA doesn’t count any new acquisitions that can be lodged.

Noongar/Ballardong man David Wardong Collard created and piloted the program at Quairading District High School, 165 kilometres east of Perth. He described the program as ‘intergenerational transfer of traditional ecological knowledge”.

“The cultural significance is we’re able to protect our knowledge before it goes to the grave, so if we can transfer the knowledge from our Elders sooner than later, it means that we have a higher rate of protecting our cultural knowledge,” he told NITV News.

“Today we see a lot of re-learning actually occurring. So, what we’re trying to do now is to fast track the transfer of knowledge using an education system- which is readily available- and increasing cultural knowledge being added to the curriculum in schools." 

Mr Collard said Noongar knowledge and culture will provide students with a better understanding of school subject topics such as science, technology, environment, and maths. 

Mr Collard said the example of cultural burning demonstrates how fire is part of the Noongar knowledge and could be incorporated into chemistry lessons.

SWALSC CEO Wayne Nannup said the new opportunity would allow for the sharing of knowledge and culture between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students.

“We are talking about changing curriculum within the school and introducing different methods of caring for Country and it’s a traditional method and that method walks alongside scientific methods,” Mr Nannup said.

The program will not only give the younger generation an opportunity to learn from their Elders but will also  encourage students to enter into the agriculture industry.

“We will see a complete change of young Noongar children in Quairading District and Fremantle College and [the program] will enable our children to start looking at agri-business, agronomy, also looking at environmental science, marine science and water resource management,” Mr Collard said.

The Noongar leader said many land management issues will arise from the native title deal and despite many people being attached to land management, he said the Noongar Nation have no land managers.

“We shouldn’t be just happy to be rangers. We could be environmental scientist, marine scientists, the farmer, to be the fisher and be the forester,“ Mr Collard said.

“This is more to do with providing leadership within the Noongar community, but also in each of the fields.”

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