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Year 5 celebrate our First Peoples

From the thrill of experiencing a traditional smoking ceremony, to learning more about art and artefacts, Year 5 learnt a lot this week, about the world’s oldest surviving culture.


For their latest PYP inquiry unit ‘Where we are in place and time’, our Year 5 students have been pursuing the following lines of inquiry: individuals and groups have shaped countries in different ways; significant historical events have impacted the development of countries; and historical artefacts provide insight into our past. And what better way to explore these lines of inquiry than by discovering more about the oldest continuing living culture in the world. Learning about the richness and diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, histories, traditions and perspectives – with an all-day incursion with Ranger Jamie Tours – was an opportunity for our Year 5 students to develop a greater understanding and appreciation for the incredible knowledge systems of our First Peoples.


It was a hands-on day filled with exciting activities, including a traditional ochre and smoke ceremony, boomerang-throwing, dancing, art-making and a workshop to learn about bush tucker and traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander medicines.

The students were thrilled to start the day with a traditional Smoking Ceremony and Welcome to Country. Native plants were used to produce smoke - and the students learnt that the plants are believed to have cleansing properties and the ability to ward off bad spirits. 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples have used artefacts like boomerangs, spears, shields and dillybags for tens of thousands of years to engage in activities such as hunting, warfare, food preparation and making music or art. Students had an opportunity to handle the different artefacts. They were excited to throw a boomerang, the throwing stick typically used to hunt large upright animals such as kangaroos and emus.


Next, they learnt about the importance of traditional and ceremonial dance in the spirituality and storytelling of our First Peoples. Dance has been used to pass stories down the generations about the land, animals, dreamtime and ancestors,. This includes the arrival of the First Fleet and the impact that European settlement had on our First Peoples.


Students then had an opportunity to create their own artwork using traditional colours and clays. Across Australia, there are examples of centuries-old rock paintings that depict important cultural stories. But art could also be drawn on ceremonial articles or simply sketched out in the dirt or sand, using symbols and icons to convey knowledge of the land, events, histories and beliefs of our First Peoples.

Finally, students learnt about bush plants and native medicines such as witchetty grubs, tea-tree oil and eucalyptus leaves, which have been used for generations as remedies for common illnesses. Today, Western medicine is increasingly incorporating elements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander medicines to treat people more holistically.


The incursion was a fantastic way for the students to immerse themselves in the knowledge, traditions and customs of our First Peoples. It helped to raise awareness about the way European settlement has impacted on Australia and looking at art and artefacts helped them to gain a deeper insight into Australia's past.

For their final task, the students are producing a museum exhibition based on an event, a group or a person that interests them, which they will be presenting to their peers next week. Watch this space!