Shepherdson students supporting their community

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Students at Shepherdson College have been supporting their community by making bush medicine for COVID-19 affected families in Galiwin’ku using gaḏayka bark (Darwin stringybark).

Coming into the start of the school year, Galiwin’ku community transitioned from a lockdown into a lock-in, where many families and students were isolating and unable to go out and collect Yolŋu medicine to help with COVID-19 symptoms.

With many families asking the Learning on Country team to help out, they decided it would be a great project for the students to do something directly relevant to community needs as well as engage them with returning to school and maintaining cultural practices.

Learning on Country Coordinator, Isaac Jansens, explained that the project aligned to the school’s Buku Manapan (cultural theme) for Term 1, gapu (water), as the bark is easier to remove in the wet season because the trees are saturated.

“Once the gaḏayka bark has been collected, the stringy outerbark is removed until it’s a soft orange/pink colour,” he explained.

“The bark is then pounded with a rock until it’s soft and can be stretched out into a lattice, showing all of the stringy fibers of the bark. It is then boiled until the water turns a rich amber colour where the liquid is the strained and consumed either hot or cold, while keeping the bits of bark which can be used to treat stubborn sores.”

Isaac gave testament to the program’s Cultural Advisors; Chris Wanambi, Dhämbiŋ Burarrwaŋa and Dhapaṉ Yunupiŋu, who work in partnership with Isaac and the school, the Gumurr Marthakal Rangers and Yalu Aboriginal Corporation to ensure students are engaging with local cultural practices as part of their learning.

Isaac said ‘the students were wholly engaged and were so proud to be able to take the medicine home to their families.’

“The deep value and trust in indigenous practices that continues within this community is an important reminder for us as we strive for best practice two-way teaching and learning.”

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