Book a Tour Book a Tour Enrol Online Enrol Online Prospectus Prospectus

Learning the History and Culture of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders at Ivanhoe Girls'

At Ivanhoe Girls’ we are continually working to engage students in quality learning experiences and discussions that support the sharing of information and perspectives while celebrating the history and cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders peoples. 

From the Deputy Principal/Head of Senior School
Mrs Davina McClure

At the start of July, our Nation celebrated NAIDOC Week with the theme - Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up! - encouraging all to champion and drive institutional, structural, and collaborative change while also acknowledging and celebrating the generations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities that have driven positive change. 

Building on this year’s NAIDOC theme, the Year 12 Prefect Social Justice team presented a NAIDOC segment in our weekly Senior School Assembly and also ran lunchtime activities for students, providing the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ ways of being, knowing, thinking and doing. 

At Ivanhoe Girls’ we are continually working to engage students in quality learning experiences and discussions that support the sharing of information and perspectives while celebrating the history and cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders peoples. 

For example, last term’s Year 10 Human Rights Conference began with a Smoking Ceremony and Welcome to Country from Uncle Trevor Gallagher, Aboriginal Elder, First People Assembly Victoria. Students learnt that the ancient custom of a Smoking Ceremony is an important way of connecting people to country. It can be performed as its own ceremony or in this case, at the commencement of another event. Uncle Trevor’s opening address was heartfelt, as he focused on the importance of language within society and the dismay he has felt due to the loss of his native language over generations of time. 

Uncle Trevor performing the Smoking Ceremony at the 2022 Human Rights Conference

Senior School students also recently heard from Traditional Owner, Clyde Rigney, who presented at the World Environment Day Assembly. Cylde shared a passion for his Ngurrindjeri Land and the Ngurrindjeri Cultural Framework that is underpinned by five elements – Land and Sea, Language, Kinship, Law and Ceremony. A strong message from Clyde to students was, “We think we grow the environment, but we also recognise that the environment is growing us.”

27 May to 3 June was a time of learning about culture, exploring shared histories and understanding how we can all contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia. In Senior School Assembly, we remembered and acknowledged the First Nations children and their families and the mistreatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who were forcibly removed from their communities.

The classroom walls at Ivanhoe Girls’ are not barriers to the realities beyond. Instead, they offer windows to multiple perspectives and real-world problems. Both Reconciliation Week and the Year 10 Human Rights Conference have given students the opportunity to consider their place in promoting and protecting human rights while reflecting on the part they can play in the healing process for others. With this in mind, they are challenged to make positive change as actively engaged citizens of the School and wider community. They can identify the needs of those around them, ‘speak for others’ and feel empowered to engage in important issues. 

ACARA. (2016). Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures.
SBS Learn (2022).  Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up!

At Ivanhoe Girls’, we encourage students to think beyond themselves and put themselves into others’ shoes. Through the teaching of multiple perspectives and connecting students with real-world problems, such thinking increases empathy and concern for social justice in our community and around the world. — Mrs Davina McClure, Deputy Principal/Head of Senior School
From the Head of Junior School
Mrs Helen Moore

In Junior School, there are many opportunities from ELC to Year 6 for students to foster a respectful understanding of the world’s longest continuous living culture, of our indigenous Australians.  Students also learn that contemporary First Nations Australian communities are strong, resilient, rich and diverse. Learning about our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and culture is woven through the curriculum throughout the year.

Last term, National Reconciliation Week was the focus of Year 3s Social Service. It was an awareness-raising event where they invited students from Prep to Year 6 to participate in watching Dreaming or creation stories at lunchtime, they made badges and engaged in collaborative First Australian-themed colouring.

Year 6 reflected on the meaning of NAIDOC Week when they returned to school this term and they created a graffiti wall with messages to support the NAIDOC week theme, ‘Get Up, Stand Up, Show Up’.

Year 6 created a graffiti wall to reflect on and support NAIDOC week

The integrated curriculum provides many authentic opportunities for learning about our First Nations peoples. An example of this is in the Year 6's inquiry, Our People, Our World, where students were invited to write and illustrate a creation story that they then read to Year 1 students.

Picture Books are used to develop an understanding of First Nations people and culture. In Prep, they read My Country by Esekiel Kwaymullina & Sally Morgan as a provocation to get the students to think about what it is like to belong to a place. They also learn about sacred places and sites and draw symbols on the path with chalk.

For their Church Service last term, Year 1 learnt and presented an ‘active’ Acknowledgment of Country to begin their service. It was a wonderful way to engage everyone from Prep to Year 6 in words and actions. Year 2 made posters for Sorry Day and they watched NITV for NAIDOC week and explored the significance of Darebin Parklands and what it means to the local indigenous community.

Each year, Year 4 students investigate how indigenous Australians lived prior to European colonisation, and the consequent changes to the lives of all those involved as a result of this event. This year, they created a powerful iMovie presentation retelling the book titled, The Rabbits, an allegory about colonisation, written by John Marsden and illustrated by Shaun Tan. All students worked in groups and created a multimodal representation of one double page of the text.

Year 6 wrote creation story books
to share with  Year 1

In their Space inquiry this year, Year 5 learnt about how Indigenous Australians are the oldest Astronomers and how they use the night sky, focusing on Emu in the Sky. Students created Scratch Jr animations to demonstrate what they learnt. In Term 3, when studying the Goldfields, Year 5 will focus on Indigenous Australian involvement in the Gold Rush and in Term 4, when studying influential leaders, students will read about Indigenous Australian leaders.

Learning about our First Nations people and culture is also enhanced through cross-curriculum learning in Library, Music and Art.  In Library lessons, students access books by indigenous authors and they explore the two indigenous flags of Australia and the meaning of their symbols. 

National Sorry Day was also explored in Library lessons in Years 3-6, and included reading the book, Sorry Day. In Music lessons, students are introduced to Indigenous songs focusing on traditional performances and pronunciation wherever possible. Geographical locations of the songs are also discussed with a focus on music of the Wurundjeri people, the traditional land on which Ivanhoe Girls’ Grammar lies.  In Art, Aboriginal art, culture and perspectives are woven into the program by focusing on particular Aboriginal art forms or the work of particular Aboriginal artists, using these as inspiration for students’ own art creations. 

The Red Earth Cape York Immersion Program

It was special for the Years 11 and 12 students and staff who recently travelled on the second Red Earth Cape York Indigenous Immersion trip to do so during NAIDOC Week. Red Earth’s mission is to drive reconciliation by providing Traditional Owners in remote Australia the means to welcome and open the hearts of others to their country, culture and way of life. Ivanhoe Girls’ students certainly experienced the richness and beauty of Indigenous culture and its connection to the land when they visited the Homelands of Thiitharr Warra and Guuiirrl.

Students and Staff on the
Term 2 Red Earth Cape York Immersion Program

In their Day 7 blog, the students shared:

“On the immersive guided tour through Richard and Lillian’s 250 hectare property, we learnt about the native plants and their traditional uses, such as crushing green ants and smelling them for a cold remedy. Some girls got photos with the Guugu Yimithirr language name as we found them in the bush. As we walked, Lillian and Richard proudly shared with us the lessons they had learnt from their grandparents about the land.”

What a privilege it was for our Years 11 and 12 students and accompanying staff, Mrs Hale, Ms Innocenzi and Mr Greenwood, to be hosted on private Homelands where Aboriginal families have been living for thousands of years. Indigenous culture is at its strongest in these settings, where the people have maintained a meaningful connection to their land for many generations. 

At Ivanhoe Girls’, we will continue to engage students in quality learning experiences that strive for positive connections with First Nations peoples and communities, both now and for generations to come.