Heathmont College is particularly proud of our Indigenous Garden, depicting Bunjil the Eagle, the Rainbow Serpent and celebrating the First Nations peoples of this country. The shields identify key characteristics of the Kulun Nation’s land, animals, and history. From left to right the shields represent: Animal tracks, Spears, and Boomerangs, Wominjeka shield, Crow Feathers, and a Gathering Circle.


Designer:                     Simone Thomson

Sculptor:                      Rob Bast

Officially Opened:       28th March 2022


Indigenous Garden Opening Ceremony

As a whole school event, the occasion invited important guests to be part of an opening ceremony which included Welcome to Country from Aunty Zeta Thomson, Dideridoo playing by Chris Hume and an official Smoking Ceremony.  The Indigenous Garden was officially opened on Monday 28th March 2022.


The Journey

The project was strongly driven by Allana Constance (Leading Teacher for Middle School, Student Voice and Leadership). Before she volunteered to join the project, our Principal (Kerryn Sanford), and Head of Wellbeing (Fiona Adams), had submitted, and secured the application for the Regional Arts Victoria Artist in Schools Grant and had begun the planning with Yorta Yorta and Wurrundjeri artist, Simone Thomson. Thankfully, they had already planned where the Indigenous Garden would be located, out by the new stadium, but what it was to look like was up to us.

Simone and Allana spent many weeks designing the concept in between stints of onsite and remote learning. With two creative minds our ideas quickly became grand, and we soon realised we would need to approach School Council to support our vision of a 28-metre three-dimensional instillation. Thankfully, the College committed some of its own funds to make our dream a reality. 

From there Simone began meeting with various classes across the college, in different curriculum areas such as English, Humanities, Indonesian and the Arts across year 7 to 12. Simone used these sessions as an opportunity to share her own truth telling’s, sharing with us her own family history, her cultural identity, and her connection to this beautiful land we stand on today. Simone shared with students about Aboriginal Art in Victoria, and the symbolism that commonly represents mob of the Kulin Nations.

Simone’s insight was a valuable resource for students to probe and question their preconceptions and continue their journey for understanding Aboriginal culture and history.
The staff of Heathmont College also sat in professional learning with Simone in a truth telling session much like many of our students listened to.

Throughout Term 3 of 2021, students were invited to be part of the designing for the 5 Kulin nation shields which line the back of the garden. Then Year 9 students Emily Manaschali, Evie Taylor and Stephanie Morgans had just completed a research task on the topic, so with the guidance of Simone Thomson these students brainstormed various designs which became the basis of what you see today. Together, they continued researching The Kulin Nation, consisting of the five language groups who are the traditional owners: 

  • Boonwurrung (Boon-wur-rung)
  • Dja Dja Wurrung (Jar-Jar-Wur-rung)
  • Taungurung (Tung-ger-rung)
  • Wathaurung (Wath-er-rung)
  • Woiwurrung (Woy-wur-rung), commonly known as Wurundjeri.

They identified key characteristics of the Kulun Nation’s land, animals, and history. From left to right the shields represent: Animal tracks, Spears and Boomerangs, Wominjeka Shield, Crow Feathers, and a Gathering Circle.

These designs were finalised by Simone Thomson and sent off to world renowned sculptor, Rob Bast. Rob is a self-taught sculptor form the Yarra Valley. He works with various materials such as wood, steel, ice, and stone. During lockdown Rob sculpted the elements of Bunjil the Eagle, the Rainbow Serpent, and the Kulin Shields. These were craned in on November 1st, 2021.

This is when the project became most visible to the college community, and many months of hard work and planning begun to take shape. Students from the year 10 building and construction class helped Mr Allan Langley construct the stunning Merbau fence at the back of the garden, the perfect complement to the instillation.

Many students and staff volunteered their time across Term 4, 2021 to help Allana Constance with the construction, as unfortunately Simone’s contract with Regional Arts had ended by this time. Of course, lockdowns had pushed the finish line further back than we had hoped, so the power of many hands is solely how this magnificent instillation was completed.

Together, many staff and students, particularly John Iken, pitched in to join me out in the sunny weather to navigate landscaping, an area I certainly had never attempted before, by picking up power tools, paint brushes, shovels, carried countless buckets of mulch and even a team of staff to help with those extremely heavy boulders! The community of Heathmont College rallied together to develop curiosity within our students to explore the interconnectedness of Country and Place, People, Identity and Culture.

Throughout the project and into the future we hope students and staff continue learning how to respectfully approach historical, social, and cultural viewpoints of First Nation Peoples.

This was an all-immersive project that built connectedness to Indigenous culture and continues our commitment to Indigenous Education. Cultural knowledge and understanding were at the centre of the initiative, ensuring we as a college community, are culturally responsive.


Gathering Circle

We are proud to announce that the new Gathering Circle is complete and ready to use! The Gathering Circle was designed by Aboriginal artist Simone Thomson – the same artist who has designed our Indigenous Garden, College Values and Indigenous House Designs. All staff and students are welcome to use the space and we envisage the circle being used on a very regular basis. 

The Gathering Circle is a result of collaboration and consultation with our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community along with support from the College Council.


What is a Gathering Circle?

A gathering circle is where members of the community gather to connect with one another. They are symbolically round which emphasises that each member has an equal say. A gathering circle can be used as a yarning circle which is an important process that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people use to learn from one another, build respect, and share knowledge. Gathering Circles are a collaborative way to communicate and provides a respectful place to be heard and to respond.

The gathering circle has benefitted the College by:

  • Having a significant space in which our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, their families and members of the community could hold formal yearning circles. 
  • The space compliments the current Indigenous Garden 
  • Be used as an outdoor learning space for classes.
  • Adds to the beautification of the school.
  • Supports the College values (including the artistic design) of Community and Compassion.