As January came to an end, so did our 2020 Junior Ranger summer program. This year, it included a brand new activity at Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park to connect young people to the local Wadawurrung Aboriginal culture, early European history, marine life and habitats.Coastal Connections helps young people recognise the impacts of European settlement, understand the importance of preserving cultural sites and develop a deeper respect for and interest in Aboriginal culture.
“I grew up in Point Lonsdale, sadly with very little exposure to Aboriginal culture as a kid. To be able to help younger generations learn about Aboriginal culture and history in the town I grew up in is really rewarding,” says Lachlan, Ranger who helped build and deliver the activity.
Coastal Connections kicks off with a safety briefing, which typically involves getting the Junior Rangers to identify hazards in the area.
“We show pictures of animals like the Blue-ringed Octopus, so the kids know what to look out for when they put their hands in the rockpools; and help them understand how quickly the ocean, tide and currents can change,” says Lachlan.
From there, the Junior Rangers wander rockpools at low tide to learn about native species and their survival adaptions, participate in drawing Aboriginal symbols in the sand and learning their meanings, pass around Aboriginal tools and artefacts, search for edible seaweeds, go through re-enactments of historical ship moments from both World Wars and interpretive talks about the local culture, history and environment.
They also talk about the connection between Wadawurrung people and escaped English convict William Buckley. Buckley lived with Wadawurrung people for many years from 1803, in nearby caves (including Buckley’s Cave), learning their language before eventually working as an Aboriginal interpreter.
Lachlan worked with Ranger Ebonee and Education Officer, Vanessa to refine the content in the lead up to summer. He read up on credible sources, had discussions with Senior Rangers and talked to authors of shipwreck and history books to gather facts.
To put together the Aboriginal culture component, Lachlan had some knowledge from working with Traditional Owners while living and working in Alice Springs, but really looked to Ebonee and Vanessa for their vast knowledge of the local Wadawurrung people.
“Coastal Connections was a pleasure to deliver and I still have much to learn myself, but I am keen to continue developing further education opportunities around Aboriginal culture for young people,” says Lachlan.
“My hope is that every school holiday period there is at least one Junior Ranger program that consists of cultural and historical information.”
The team delivered three Coastal Connections activities in January, to 35 Junior Rangers and their parents. In the future, they hope to expand the activity to the Barwon Bluff Marine Sanctuary and beyond!