Northam’s Noongar Journey

Northam’s Noongar Journey

01 September 2022

Public school life

For the past two years, Northam Primary School has been on an important cultural journey, connecting with the local Noongar community by learning about the Noongar culture and including it in school programs.

In 2021, Northam Primary School began teaching Noongar language to all students in Years 3 to 6. The school was fortunate that its then Aboriginal and Islander Education Officer, Elizabeth (Lizzie) Stack, completed her Aboriginal Language Teacher Training and embraced the opportunity to undertake the language teacher role. Lizzie is a proud local Noongar woman who has an authentic cultural connection to Northam.

Twice a week, Ms Stack teaches the Noongar language to students in Years 3 to 6.

“The students in Years 3 to 6 have embraced the opportunity to learn the local Noongar language as part of their curriculum showing amazing levels of engagement and participation throughout all their lessons,” principal Mark Donaldson said.

“We have seen a deeper level of engagement with the Noongar culture due to the understandings the students have learnt as part of their language curriculum.”

Ms Stack and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission have worked closely with Northam’s school gardener, Steven Shaw, to establish a “Six Seasons Garden”. Students have spent time with Mr Shaw planting edible and native plants that belong in each of the seasons. Dwana Nichols, a local Noongar woman, designed a sign for each of the seasons.

Dwana Nichols, a local Noongar woman, designed a sign for each of the seasons.

As part of their celebration of the Noongar language, Northam Primary School worked in partnership with the Community Arts Network (CAN) on the Noongar Lullabies Program. CAN has worked with Noongar artists, Elders and their families to revive Noongar language through stories, music and song. The artists worked with students at the school to create and record an original lullaby in the Noongar language.

Most recently, Northam Primary School’s staff, students and community members participated in a Smoking Ceremony to mark the opening of the school’s new Yarning Circle, with Jonathon Garlett, Daniel Garlett and Daniel Garlett Junior performing the traditional ceremony.

“We were privileged to have Jonathon, Daniel and Daniel Junior performing the traditional ceremony. Our students learnt about the meaning of the Yarning Circle and the significance of it to our Noongar People’s culture.

Jonathon Garlett and Daniel Garlett Junior performed at the traditional ceremony.

“Jonathon spoke about how his family share their experience and culture whilst sitting around a Yarning Circle to have a yarn. Both Jonathon and Daniel junior played the didgeridoo throughout the ceremony highlighting the significance of their culture,” Mr Donaldson said.

“Daniel Senior spoke about the meaning of the Smoking Ceremony and how it connects to our local culture.

“He explained what it means for people to move through the smoke as part of the ceremony. All students, staff and guests were invited to move through the Yarning Circle and smoke.”