Muru Mittigar Education Programs at Rouse Hill House & Farm

A partnership with Aboriginal social enterprise Muru Mittigar is transforming students’ learning experiences.

Each year Sydney Living Museums welcomes over 55,000 school students to our sites to experience specially designed programs that link the stories and collections of our museums to classroom learning across the curriculum. We have a strong reputation for providing experiential learning activities that build the competence of students from kindergarten to Year 12 to interpret evidence, to build empathy with people past and present, and to develop a richer personal understanding of the world.

Our buildings, collections and landscapes are particularly powerful, as they provide a rare opportunity to experience ‘the real thing’ at places where history happened. In the words of one teacher:

Our aim was to give the students an insight into schooling in the past – this was an ideal excursion. The set-up and resources are well thought out and the whole experience was authentic.

Bringing Aboriginal voices to interpretation

Earlier this year we forged a transformative partnership with Aboriginal social enterprise Muru Mittigar Aboriginal Cultural & Education Centre that will allow us to further deepen the learning experiences of students visiting the Rouse Hill House & Farm site through a rich program in which students will engage with Aboriginal technology and knowledge.

The first steps were to invite Muru Mittigar to take up residence in an office and education building on site at Rouse Hill House & Farm, to facilitate a close working relationship. SLM and Muru Mittigar have identified multiple opportunities to work together to bring Aboriginal stories and voices to the interpretation of the Rouse Hill site; these include staff from both organisations welcoming our visitors to the site in the Visitor Centre, public programming and interpretation. Given the enthusiastic response of schools, we are already planning the development of a site-specific offer co-authored and delivered by SLM and Muru Mittigar.

A collaboration of expertise

Combining our expertise, Muru Mittigar and SLM have collaborated to develop a complementary offer that extends students’ experience of the Rouse Hill estate beyond its colonial history to connect to the contemporary traditions of Aboriginal Australia. Students who experience the schoolhouse through the ever-popular Lessons from the Past program can now also experience Aboriginal culture through art workshops, storytelling, boomerang-throwing and bush tucker, adding depth and breadth to their experience of the site.

Beyond enhancing and extending our offer to schools, this collaboration has also deepened and strengthened our own staff’s understanding and confidence about working with Aboriginal knowledge and perspectives (now one of three cross-curriculum priorities in the national curriculum), while also yielding new professional and personal relationships.

Aboriginal history, perspectives and cultural practices

Visitor Experience Co-ordinator Sheryn Brown describes the significance of the partnership for Muru Mittigar:

The great thing about coming together with SLM is being able to offer the schools an experience that no one else offers. Muru Mittigar’s pre-settlement programs and SLM post-settlement programs we deliver … by bringing together the two cultures and working cohesively to tell our stories, which is a beautiful thing.

As well as learning about the site’s contact and colonial history from SLM guides, students can now also learn about its long Darug history directly from Indigenous guides and Elders, who share their traditional knowledge, perspectives and cultural practices. This experience exponentially expands students’ understanding and appreciation of the scope, richness and strength of Aboriginal history and culture, both past and present.

Dr Sophie Lieberman, Head of Programs

Child with hand up.
Arncliffe West Infants School students at Rouse Hill House & Farm. Photo © Stuart Miller for Sydney Living Museums
Closeup of student painting.
Arncliffe West Infants School students at Rouse Hill House & Farm. Photo © Stuart Miller for Sydney Living Museums
Child seated at table with painting.
Arncliffe West Infants School students at Rouse Hill House & Farm. Photo © Stuart Miller for Sydney Living Museums
Group of school kids outdoors.
Arncliffe West Infants School students at Rouse Hill House & Farm. Photo © Stuart Miller for Sydney Living Museums

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This article originally appeared in Unlocked: The Sydney Living Museums Gazette, our Members’ magazine.

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