Journey Through Time: Planetarium Schools Tour across Gunaikurnai Country

6 June 2024

Schools across Gunaikurnai Country recently embarked on an extraordinary educational journey, experiencing an immersive planetarium experience courtesy of the Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation (GLaWAC).

The show, “The Earth Above: A Deep Time View of Australia’s Epic History” transported students through 140,000 years of Australia’s history, blending Indigenous knowledge with scientific insights, including a story of Mulla-mullung (Gunaikurnai medicine men and women) from Cloggs Cave, near Buchan.

Primary and secondary students from Orbost, Bairnsdale, Sale, Churchill and Warragul enjoyed the unique chance to learn outside the classroom, in an inflatable dome no less, making the history of the land come alive in a way that textbooks alone cannot achieve.

One class was so impressed that they gave the planetarium show a lying down ovation, a testament to how captivating the experience was.

The immersive planetarium show was produced in partnership with the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage (CABAH) and Deakin Motion Lab and First Nations communities around Australia.

It showcases four significant locations: Girraween Lagoon on Larrakia and Wulna Country outside Darwin, Lake Mungo in NSW on Barkandji/Paakantyi, Ngyiampaa, and Mutthi Mutthi land, Jiigurru (Lizard Island) on the Great Barrier Reef, and Cloggs Cave on Gunaikurnai Country.

The public also had the chance to see the show at Bairnsdale West Primary, turning out in droves to witness the storytelling and visual spectacle, and highlighting the community’s desire to learn more about the deep history of the area where they live, work, and play.  

For GLaWAC RAP Manager Uncle Russell Mullett, the opportunity to share insights about Gunaikurnai culture with the younger generation is immensely important.

“Our people have always been storytellers; it’s embedded in our living culture. The Dome provides a unique experience to share the stories of our Old Ancestors with our young ones, and to continue to honour and learn about this vast cultural landscape.”

Shay Terrick, GLaWAC JM Ranger and Cultural Education Officer, travelled with the planetarium to several of the schools across the region to talk to his experience of visiting Cloggs cave through his work.

“You don’t usually get the opportunity to see something like that. Seeing the kids eyes light up afterwards. It was awesome.”

For CABAH CEO Nathan Wright, the opportunity to present the program on Country alongside GLaWAC was a special occasion.

“It has been an incredible journey with GLaWAC in developing this program and the research that underpins it, and it was a great experience to be able to stand alongside GLaWAC and show the finished video on Gunaikurnai Country.

“The film will be available in planetariums around the country, but the beauty of the portable dome is that it allows us to reach regional areas, especially those communities we have been lucky enough to work with.”

GLaWAC would like to thank Orbost Community College, Bairnsdale West Primary, Gippsland Grammar, Kurnai College and Warragul North Primary for hosting the experience, and all of the schools who visited.

What a truly magical way to share stories from Country and inspire future generations to appreciate and respect Australia’s rich cultural heritage.