By Michael Doran
Dixons Creek Primary has won a state award for resilience.
It was the Victorian winner in the school category at the Resilient Australia Awards, and is in the running to win the national award in November.
The Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience awards recognise individuals, groups or organisations that demonstrate excellence and innovation in projects and initiatives that support communities to be better prepared and more disaster-resilient.
The 2009 Black Saturday fires had a large impact on the school community, with about half of its families directly affected and some students losing their homes.
“After Black Saturday, two of our parents had been working with Wurundjeri elders to learn about Indigenous burning practices and decided to attend the National Indigenous Fire Workshop in Cape York in 2016,” teacher Hayley Bawden said.
“This seeded a project of engaging with the school in order to help the local community deal with fire again.”
In essence, the project is about learning the lessons of traditional Indigenous programs used to keep the bush under control through planned burning.
Students from Grades 3 to 6 spent time with local and visiting Aboriginal elders learning about the impacts of fire on flora and fauna and then used what they learnt to produce a book, Parent Trees are Talking.
The students have spread their message of how fire can be used in a safe and good way to other schools, at conferences and at a Kids teaching Kids seminar at Edendale Community Environment Farm in Eltham.
Four students made a presentation at Reconciliation Day celebrations in Healesville and the project was presented to a Disaster Resilient Australia-New Zealand School Education Network meeting.
Ms Bawden said the children made speeches about their past and present experiences with fire and how they were trying to educate other community members about Indigenous burning methods.
Year 5 and 6 teacher Kylie Schabel is one of project’s drivers and will be in Brisbane for the national awards announcement.