Yass Public School and Yass High School Mentoring Group

Primary and high school female Indigenous students come together to form a Yarning Circle.

During the first semester of this year, this group has been learning a variety of weaving techniques taught to their teacher by Indigenous Wiradjuri artist Lorraine Connelly-Northey.

During these sessions, the girls have broadened and strengthened their friendships. The older high school girls learn the new art-making techniques first, and then teach the younger primary students. A lot of storytelling and sharing occurs on these afternoons and the wellbeing of all is enhanced within this culture of learning.

The finished artworks will be exhibited in a variety of forums, such as our local NAIDOC festival and our Year Six graduation ceremonies. These Indigenous students then become leaders in demonstrating their newly developed skills in workshops with their classmates in the wider school community.

Primary and high school boys come together fortnightly for their own mentoring program.

These programs have hugely assisted with student wellbeing – in particular with the significant Year Six transition to high school. As the years pass and primary students become high school students, they in turn continue the cycle by supporting and mentoring the younger generation.

The boys have created their own didgeridoos, which reinforces the significance of these instruments for them. They learn a repertoire of sounds, and practise the necessary skills to combine them into storytelling compositions. Our didgeridoo group performs their compositions at NAIDOC celebrations and their Year Six graduation assembly.

Our fortnightly mentoring groups reflect the true essence of a Yarning Circle. In our school planning, we are in the process of developing creative ideas for a large stone circle to be constructed in a playground area. This stone Yarning Circle will be used for many “coming together” student learning experiences and allow our school’s learning community to have an enhanced connection to our local environment. Relationships with the land and with others will be nurtured here. High school students help to alleviate younger students’ fears about the transition to high school and assist teachers in promoting a positive student learning culture. Positive wellbeing is a key focus for these groups.

Story contributed by Lisa Marple from Yass Public School. Published in 2019