Programs cultivate knowledge of Aboriginal culture

Josh Brown is proud of his role ensuring Australia’s First Peoples will continue to have the longest surviving culture in the world.

Whether it’s a cooking class or a dance session, his role as Aboriginal Programs Coordinator for the Botanic Gardens and Centennial Parklands, and head of its Aboriginal Education and Community team, means he shares knowledge of country with hundreds of school children a year.

Josh’s passion is to teach students, teachers and visitors of all backgrounds about Aboriginal culture and to continue to be a role model for younger Aboriginal kids to follow their dreams and to help them succeed through education.

“Our programs aim to educate all students and teachers about the complexities, similarities and differences within Indigenous cultures from around Australia,” he said.

“We do this in keeping with the ways Aboriginal culture has always been taught — to me and my staff growing up — through hands-on experiences, sharing stories, building upon knowledge we already have and contextualising new ideas and concepts to things we already know and understand.”

Originally from Worimi country in the Forster-Tuncurry area, Josh has many years’ experience in education and has qualifications in secondary teaching, health and physical education.

As well as student programs, the Gardens’ Learning Centre offers the teacher professional development course Deliver Aboriginal Education Better during the year, with dates scheduled for 15 March, 21 June, 20 September and 9 December.

“It’s a NESA-accredited course that offers teachers a variety of experiences and activities to better deliver Aboriginal education outcomes for their students, staff and school community,” Josh said.

“It gives teachers an opportunity to build upon their knowledge regardless of their experience with Aboriginal education, and to learn from other teachers and educators, along with experts in the field.

“The session about the eight ways of Aboriginal learning pedagogy has proven to be very popular, with teachers commenting on how simplified it is and having much more confidence in using it with their classes after participating.”

Across its three sites — the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, the Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan in south-west Sydney and Centennial Parklands — the team offers 11 different student programs focusing on Aboriginal culture and heritage from stage 1 to tertiary.

All programs are linked to a variety of key learning areas within the NSW syllabus and Australian curriculum.

“In particular, our Food in Australia stage 5 Food Technology program is a hands-on cooking experience, teaching students about the use of native bush foods in traditional and contemporary recipes,” Josh said.

We always see a positive difference in the students and teachers that complete our programs as they learn something new about Aboriginal culture each time.

“I find that the style of our programs and teaching suits all learning abilities because we focus on a fun and engaging experience.

“I believe that those who attend our programs go home with a better knowledge of country and culture because we offer aspects of culture that appeal to any interest and experience level, whether this be language, art, plants, stories, food, dance or looking at tools and weapons.

“From this, all participants can go back to their schools and homes with a new sense of culture but also knowledge to pass on to others.

“This supports the growing of our culture in a positive learning environment through sharing stories and experiences — just as our culture has always been taught to others.

“By educating our younger generations, we will continue to be the longest living culture in the world.”

— Scott Coomber