Muswellbrook South Public School celebrates NAIDOC Week with a smoking ceremony and dancing

MUSWELLBROOK South Public School (MSPS) finally joined the smoking ceremony celebrations on Friday, after its belated NAIDOC Week fell victim to the elements.

Unable to host the event during the week itself, from July 8 to 15, due to holidays, the school’s original plans were then washed out on Monday.

But, the students still acknowledged their indigenous culture, capping it off with a special dancing display at the end of proceedings.

Ochre Opportunity Hub Upper Hunter program mentor Jacob Ellis led the festivities, having taught a select group of pupils how to perform a variety of Aboriginal-inspired dances.

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for Mr Ellis, who has overseen five ceremonies since the return of the school term, including one at Aberdeen Public School on Tuesday

They put on a show for the entire schooling community with the smoke teetering away in the background, representing the culture of the original owners of the land.​

Teacher Jo Tonon helped coordinate the event, and said that she felt it was important for the kids to learn about the local first nations. 

“This week we’ve looked at some Kamilaroi things, and the Aboriginal girls group learnt a new dance, which is a Kamilaroi dance,” she said.

They’ve also welcomed members from the Wanaruah Local Aboriginal Land Council to the school to teach the youngsters about indigenous artifacts, including a ‘humpy’ which is an old tent-style type of shelter.

The education hasn’t been constrained to the local tribes though, with people from Torres Strait Island and Sydney invited to the event, too.

Ms Tonon said they’ve had time to provide more teachings this year, as they’ve extended the length of the celebrations.

“We’ve been recognising NAIDOC Week here for many years, (but) traditionally we’ve had one day and this year we’ve moved to a full week,” she explained.

“So this is the first time we’ve had a full week of activities for the kids to celebrate NAIDOC with.”

She believes the decision has been a good move, highlighting the significance of educating children about the land’s traditional owners. 

“It’s very important for all kids to learn about it because it’s a part of our history, a part of our society, it’s part of being Australian,” he said.

Ms Tonon also emphasised how crucial it was for their school to know about these things, given that almost 40 per cent of the students identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

Celebrations have wrapped up for another year now, but the acknowledgement of indigenous culture will be ever-present at MSPS.