In 2022 we invite schools to be inspired by and engage with this year’s theme From River to Sea: Our Island Home.
Water has been the lifeblood for First Nations people who, for over 60,000 years, have lived on this vast and arid continent. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, their relationship with water goes far beyond that of just physical survival; it is deeply embedded in identity, connections spirituality and ways of life as First Nations people.
In 2022, water extremes experienced by communities across NSW highlight the need for everyone to better understand and learn from First People’s land and water management practices, which have allowed their survival on the driest inhabited continent on Earth for millennia.
First Nations peoples’ view of Country encompasses the land as well as the waters that flow in and around it. One’s identity is deeply embedded in the Country they are from. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people often identify as being Saltwater or Freshwater people. Saltwater people are from sea Country along the coastlines and off the mainland, and Freshwater people from areas near inland water sources.
Through the sharing of Dreaming stories, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have developed a deep spiritual connection to Country. Teaching lessons by sharing stories has established lore on how water and Country is to be used, managed and cared for. Knowledge about how to locate water, and which water sources were suitable for bathing, fishing, leisure and ceremony safeguarded access to quality drinking water. This has allowed First Nations peoples to survive on the driest inhabited continent on Earth for millennia.
Reading the environment and observing seasonal changes, rainfall, tides and river levels and how this impacts flora, fauna and other natural resources has allowed First Nations peoples to live in harmony with the environment. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples fish, hunt and collect resources, taking only what is needed and leaving enough behind to sustain supplies and maintain the delicate balance of the ecosystems in and around the water.
Historically, trade has also been an important aspect of life for First Nations people, and the water has provided many opportunities for that. Not only was water a way to travel from place to place but it also allowed for the development of fishing technologies and aquaculture systems, providing food for the local mob as well as an opportunity to trade these food supplies with other nations.
We want to celebrate the knowledge of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their relationships with water by inviting you to explore your local waterways. Discover the ancient knowledge that surrounds these vital life sources and share your interpretations and ideas using art and writing.
In 2022, we encourage all schools participating in the Schools Reconciliation Challenge to engage with the lesson plans and activities, and additional resources we have gathered for this year’s challenge to inspire your students to draw, paint and write about their new knowledge and understanding of living together From River to Sea: Our Island Home.
Activity: Getting started with the theme: From River to Sea: Our Island Home