A visit to the Ngargee Tree
To celebrate the start of Reconciliation Week at St Kilda Road’s Junior School this year, prominent Indigenous archaeologist and anthropologist David Johnston wanted ‘to share a journey, which is the local journey of connection to country and its people… to help our young ones have a connection to the history of their community.’
Happily for the Year 4 students, the journey David took them on was very local: He led them on the short walk to the Ngargee Tree at St Kilda Junction, just down the road from campus. Ngargee is a local Boonwurrung word for ‘a gathering, a celebration of community’, so it’s fitting that this was the venue for David to tell his young audience about their connection to a local community with a long, long history. David painted a vivid picture for the students about life for the Boonwurrung before European settlement, and about the significance of this tree as a meeting place and site for celebration.
A symbol of survival and reconciliation, this ancient red river gum is estimated to be 700–800 years old. This astonished the students, who loved the idea that a tree that was so old was just around the corner. They loved taking turns meeting the tree while David offered each of them a warm Wominjeka (The Woi-wurrung word for Welcome).
Student Emilia Pontes loved the Ngargee Tree for an extra reason: ‘It made me feel calm,’ she said.