Living Classrooms program will share nature lessons in Aboriginal language

Students, teachers and Aboriginal Elders at Coffs Harbour’s Gumbaynggirr Giingana Freedom School are working with the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Trust (BCT) to deliver a unit of lessons sharing Aboriginal practices to care for Country and our natural environment.

The Living Classrooms program offers lessons in local Aboriginal language and the opportunity to visit sites where native biodiversity is being protected under private land conservation agreements.

Gumbayngggir man and CEO of the Gumbaynggirr Giingana Freedom School Clark Webb said local knowledge of land and biodiversity was critical to students’ cultural learnings. 

“We’re excited for the opportunity to partner with the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Trust on the Living Classrooms pilot and connect with Coffs Harbour landholders,” Mr Webb said.

“Learning about culture on Country is a key focus for our school, and Living Classrooms will allow us to do that,” he said. 

NSW Biodiversity Conservation Trust Chief Executive Officer Dr Erin Giuliani said Aboriginal knowledge of Country and biodiversity was important to understanding the big picture when it comes to conservation. 

“Living Classrooms is a blueprint unit for Aboriginal students and will allow other schools to create resources and learning based on local cultural knowledge and language,” Dr Giuliani said.

“Landholders have consistently told us they want to share the outcomes of their conservation efforts with future generations, and many are keen to link in with their local Aboriginal Elders and community,” she said.

Coffs Harbour landholders Gerard McCosker and Joh Kok are two such conservation agreement-holders keen to learn from the pilot program with school students, teachers and Aboriginal leaders sharing in their rainforest property. 

"We feel so lucky to be here on this land with the beautiful rainforest in this area,” Ms Kok said. 

"It's a great opportunity for us to get some guidance about the land, its ecology and its history. We are very excited to be involved with the Biodiversity Conservation Trust and the community in this way."

“Young Aboriginal people should be able to come here and sit in nature to learn from it and enjoy it," she said.  

NSW Biodiversity Conservation Trust Team Leader for Education Alice McGrath said the Living Classrooms program would build on the Biodiversity Conservation Trust’s existing education program, promoting the importance of biodiversity conservation in regional communities and giving students the opportunity to attend free field day events.

“We are honoured to be able to facilitate two-way learning with students across NSW through this program, as well as help landholders connect with their local Aboriginal communities,” Ms McGrath said.