First Nations update

Posted on in General


Riawunna program

On Tuesday 5 September, a group of St Mary’s Year 10-12 First Nations students were accompanied by First Nations Officer, Ella Berresford, and Senior Staff member, Kelly McManus on an informative and cultural session to Riawunna and the University of Tasmania.

Riawunna is a UTAS program which provides a welcoming place of belonging for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, giving those looking to study the ability to gain access to its academic and cultural support.

To begin the afternoon, our group was welcomed with a beautiful Welcome to Country and smoking ceremony led by Aunty Janice and other cultural leaders. The students were then introduced to the Riawunna space and enjoyed an informative session run by leaders in the Riawunna Centre about their services and university pathways. After the session, a Q&A was set up to let students ask further questions and gain more information about opportunities at UTAS.

Moving outside, the students and staff were accompanied on a cultural tour of the Sandy Bay Campus. Here, the students appreciated their surroundings and learned how they can immerse themselves in all aspects of their culture. The students and staff were offered native plants, which are scattered all over the campus, to both eat and smell, allowing them to learn about the cultural significance of these plants.

Ella Berresford
Learning Support Officer (First Nations)


Time with Sharnie

Our Meeting Place has always been a space to gather and learn, and on Friday 8 September it came alive once more under the guidance of Sharnie Read.

As a palawa community member and mother of Laycie (Year 4), Sharnie often devotes her time and energy to our SMC First Nations students, and last week was no different.

Gathering in the morning, many of our First Nations students sat around whilst Sharnie spoke. Piled on couches, perched on ottomans and curled up on chairs, students of all ages yarned with each other to develop ideas for upcoming activities

It was a session of cultural practice, of learning, and of connection. Some went on a walk with Sharnie in the sunshine, others stayed back to burn designs into possum skins. The students who worked with the possum skins designed patterns that depict the importance of Country and the places they value most. Those who walked the grounds reassembled in the Meeting Place to discuss language and culture. Combing through the dictionary, they found palawa kani words that were of importance to them, that described the values, people, and places that they hold dear.

Overall, this session was yet another positive experience for our First Nations students here at the College. Not only was culture shared and language learnt, but students also continued to bond with others as they have done throughout this year

It is truly wonderful to see students from all year levels interact and form friendships, fostering the sense of community that makes this space so valuable.

Caitlin Marr
Learning Support Officer (First Nations)


Yarning with Uncle Hank

On Thursday 21 September, Uncle Hank Horton yarned with First Nations students in the Meeting Place. Uncle Hank is a pakana Elder from the trooloolway mob, Northeast Nation, wukalina area.

Uncle Hank shared with students his upbringing and inspired our First Nations students to consider career pathways that help share their identity in society, such as land management.

While Uncle Hank yarned, students touched kangaroo and wallaby skins and wove bracelets. It was a time of deep listening, sharing and healing.

Claire Raward
First Nations Facilitator K-12


SMC Toolbox

Groving our love of learning

St Mary's College is located on the traditional lands of the muwinina people of the South East Nation. We acknowledge and deeply respect the palawa people, the Tasmanian Aboriginal Community, and all Elders past and present. We are committed to learning alongside our students and community in this place, nipaluna, and support the continued sharing of knowledge and culture.