By Melissa Keogh
Students at St Joseph’s School Renmark have expanded their knowledge by being treated to the wisdom and teachings of a local Aboriginal elder.
Respected mentor Howard ‘Uncle Barney’ Lindsay visited the Year 3/4 class recently to engage children in traditional values such as respect and trust.
Uncle Barney is from the Gerard community and regularly visits Riverland schools to inspire students with history and dreamtime stories.
Gerard is a small Aboriginal settlement near the town of Winkie and was the final resting place of well known tracker Jimmy James who helped police track criminals for decades.
During Uncle Barney’s visit, St Joseph’s students painted artwork using ochre, a red earth pigment from the Spring Cart Gully Quarry between Renmark and Berri.
“It really caught my eye, and not only my eye but by heart,” Uncle Barney says.
“Ochre is really important to my culture. If you have red ochre it is like gold.”
Uncle Barney also played the didgeridoo, told dreamtime stories and shared tales of his upbringing.
The support worker and school bus driver never learnt to read or write but has instead engaged students in storytelling for many years.
Year 3/4 classroom teacher Greg Reeks says engaging students with a respected member of the community brings a realisitic aspect of learning to the classroom.
“It’s not just learning with a (computer) screen, it adds a whole other level to their knowledge of the Riverland,” he says.
“These people live right next to us and are so valuable to the community, so we’re trying to tap into that.”
Greg says students recognised the importance of respect for nature and fellow classmates.
“Barney grew up in an area where everything he ate was virtually from the bush and that’s where he learnt respect for the land and the importance of caring for nature,” he says.
“Respect and trust are one of our main focuses at school.”
Aside from Uncle Barney’s visit, St Joseph’s students were also treated to one of Adelaide’s best sporting experiences – an AFL game at Adelaide Oval – in June.
The Port Adelaide Football Club donated to the school 57 tickets to attend a clash between Port and North Melbourne.
Greg says the trip helped lift the spirits of the children, some whose families are suffering from huge loss of fruit crops due to hailstorms in 2016.
“And with the drought a few years ago there have definitely been hard times,” he says.
“It’s about trying to teach children to have confidence and believe in themselves.”
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