Connecting Kids to Country unifies Great Southern students with surrounding bushland through education

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Tom ShanahanGreat Southern Herald
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Frankland River students take part in a quenda digging survey, with Ashley Marjoram.
Camera IconFrankland River students take part in a quenda digging survey, with Ashley Marjoram.

Great Southern children have been given the opportunity to connect to their country and its people through Gillamii Centre’s first excursion in a new environmental education project.

The Flora, Fauna and Farming: Connecting Kids to Country project has received positive reviews from parents after the first excursion to Balijup Sanctuary.

“Balijup is a great example of some of the fantastic outcomes that can occur when we protect remnant bushland, including thriving populations of quenda, brushtail possums, and presence of the brushtail phascogale,” Gillamii Centre natural resource management officer Ashley Marjoram said.

The $35,000 education project employs environmental experts and local voices to highlight themes of sustainability and the importance of surrounding habitats with a hands-on experience in remnant bushland throughout the region.

South Coast NRM black cockatoo project officer Sandra Gilfillan taught the children about the significance of hollows.

“I talked to the kids about the importance of having suitable nesting hollows in trees for cockatoos to breed in, and how trees will only form hollows when they are 100-150 years old or more,” she said. “This gave them a sense of the long-term and continuing care that is required to keep habitats suitable for animals.”

ABOVE: Sandra Gilfillan shows how to measure the diameter of a tree for the black cockatoo survey. LEFT: Frankland River students take part in a quenda survey with Ashley Marjoram.
Camera IconABOVE: Sandra Gilfillan shows how to measure the diameter of a tree for the black cockatoo survey. LEFT: Frankland River students take part in a quenda survey with Ashley Marjoram.

She said long-term education about environmental issues was vital for belonging to country.

“This program is a wonderful initiative to get kids out on country and share knowledge with them and impart some sense of stewardship and responsibility for the natural environment,” she said. Elder May Penny gave her time to speak about her connection to country, passing on stories from her nanna.

She spoke about bush tucker and how adults used to tell children stories that acted as warnings — such as tales of the Margent, a big snake that lived in rivers and lakes and could eat children if they went to the water without an adult.

“Nanna May talked to us about life in the bush when she was a child. She enjoyed every minute of it, even if she didn’t have all stuff kids have now,” Ms Penny said.

Parent Kylie Tomlinson said the experience made the children excited about their environment.

Sarah Comer showing the children the fauna radio tracker, of which they all got a turn to use and find the hidden ‘animal’ (a nice bag of lollies)
Camera IconSarah Comer showing the children the fauna radio tracker, of which they all got a turn to use and find the hidden ‘animal’ (a nice bag of lollies)

“It has really broadened their understandings and we appreciate the time and effort that has gone into planning and conducting this project. It’s exciting to be part of,” she said.

Funded by a State NRM community stewardship grant, this year’s project is a pilot of what Ms Marjoram hopes will be a long-term project. “With an environment that is facing ever-increasing challenges from urbanisation, deforestation and degradation to name a few, the relationship children have with the environment is changing, and not for the better,” she said.

“So if experiences, encounters, and connection with the natural world are critical to forming lifelong environmental attitudes and values which will shape resource management in the future, then we need to meet the gap in environmental education, awareness and connection.”

All three participating primary schools including Cranbrook, Frankland River and Tambellup at Nunijup Lake.
Camera IconAll three participating primary schools including Cranbrook, Frankland River and Tambellup at Nunijup Lake.

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