Lake Wangary's 'Minya Custodians' supporting region's unique landscapes

A program aimed at connecting children to country, culture and custodianship has proven a big hit at Lake Wangary Primary School.

The latest of the 'Minya Custodians' trips took place during the opening 2021 school term, with students venturing to Greenly Beach and Coles Point.

School principal Wade Branford said the program started last year and was a huge success, with repeated visits to Mount Dutton Bay to identify flora and fauna, as well as discussion and investigations into why specific flora and fauna existed in the area, leading to students looking at ways to protect and maintain the area.

Students learnt about the local European history at the Dutton Bay Woolshed, as well as Aboriginal history which was supported by Aboriginal community education officers and staff research.

Students also conducted the same research at Lake Wangary - a different landscape and environment which led to lots of new learning.

Mr Branford said the school was surrounded by "unique" sites, landscapes, flora, fauna and history.

"Our school community wanted to use these exquisite areas to promote learning in authentic places [and] we were keen to move away from books and webs and actually look at our native areas and identify what was in our area," he said.

"The program was a huge success in 2020 and covers most areas of the curriculum including basic first aid and student wellbeing.

"Students relished these opportunities and published all their findings at school as well as using ICT (information and communications technology) to further extend their knowledge."

The students have a tool bag of resources they can use on the trips while investigating, helping with mathematical and scientific elements, measuring, viewing, direction finding, collecting samples and more.

Mr Branford said the influx of visitors to the Greenly Beach and Coles Point area over summer had "significantly impacted the area" and highlighted some issues within the locations, with the Minya Custodians now looking at how they can support the area to be preserved and maintained.

"Students have been auditing the area looking for ways to support and develop the area for everyone to enjoy and respect," he said.

"They have looked at possible areas for a caravan park, how adequate the fencing is, paths, current vegetation and wildlife and who the traditional custodians of the land were."

Mr Branford said it led to the group inviting two guest speakers to their recent Greenly visit.

Local archaeologist Dr Scott Cane, who is working with the Nauo people to acknowledge their history and belonging to the country, and local Elder and area caretaker Jodie Miller spoke to the custodians and answered questions they had.

Dr Cane gave an explanation of the land and historical changes that have occurred in Australia and Greenly over the past 100,000 years, while Mr Miller shared a dreaming story about Lake Wangary.

Mr Branford said the Minya Custodians also interviewed campers in the area, asking how they heard about the area and what they were doing to be sustainable.

Of those interviewed, four were from South Australia and 15 interstate visitors, who had heard about the area through word of mouth, locals, online and the Port Lincoln Visitor Information Centre.

They had a number of ways to be sustainable, including not making their own tracks, using containers for rubbish, while only two had chemical toilets.

Mr Branford said that could improve as it severely impacted the area, and the use of a chemical toilet was mandatory in Victoria, Western Australia and New South Wales.

Those interviewed said additional toilets, bins, signage, better fencing and fixing roads would improve the area.

Mr Branford said the custodians' goal was to support the Lower Eyre Peninsula District Council "in any way we can to help develop and maintain the area".

He said the students also had suggestions for the area, including more rubbish bins, planting of more native vegetation, better fencing, established pathways to the beach and designated camping areas.

Students have been positive about the program, including year 7 student Alexiah Neale, who said they wanted to "help improve areas so they are more sustainable and future generations can enjoy", while year 2 student Erica Turner said that "saving the environment is something I have a passion for".

Mr Branford said anybody interested in the program could contact the school and they would be happy to share the process they went through and the successes they have had.