Yamba Museum Inaugural The River of Learning Exhibition


h6. Uncle Lester Mercy, Aunty Lenore Parker, Uncle Michael Laurie, Aunty Elizabeth Smith and Dave Harrington (representing Macquarie University) visit this year’s ‘River of Learning’ exhibition at The Old Kirk, Yamba Museum.

A unique partnership between The Port of Yamba Historical Society, Yaegl Elders and local primary schools has resulted in the launch of the the inaugural River of Learning art prize and exhibition. The exhibition was recently hosted at The Yamba Museum featuring student works

The River of Learning program began in 2010 in collaboration between the Maclean High School, Yaegl Elders and Macquarie University who support the program with their research into Yaegl bush foods and medicine. It is unique and the only one of its kind in Australia. The Port of Yamba Historical Society takes pride in their collaborative partnership with the Yaegl Community telling their stories.

The emphasis is the Clarence River that traverses the three Aboriginal nations in the Clarence Valley, Bundjalung, Gumbaingirr and Yaegl, and the river’s ongoing significance to the Aboriginal people still living here.

The River of Learning art prize and exhibition was a way in which students from other local primary schools could participate in the program. The theme ‘What Country Means To Me’ encouraged students to reflect on the various meanings of country, and how that was significant in their own lives.

Local Elders were thrilled with the artwork displayed at the exhibition. Aunty Lenore said “We were blown away. It makes your heart sing”.

The overall success of the program is due to the Yaegl Elders having direct input and working alongside the teachers at Maclean High School. Year 7 students visit local sites of cultural significance with the Elders to learn about their significance. Yaegl language and country are also taught in their mainstream subjects: maths, english, science, geography and history as well music and dance.

An annual Celebration Day is held at the school hall where parents and the local community are invited to attend. Students enthusiastically play a variety of indigenous games, and proudly display their project work. The guest speaker this year was Frances Belle Parker. As an ex-student and accomplished Indigenous artist, Frances address hit a powerful chord with the students and the audience.