Staff at Nowra Public School channelled their disappointment at a postponed NAIDOC Week into a bespoke celebration of this year's theme 'Always was, always will be'.
After the usual NAIDOC Week in July was postponed, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal staff came together to create a unique learning resource for students - a digital book.
The book was created to go hand-in-hand with the school's iPad program. Every student from Kindergarten to Year 6 has a copy on their iPad.
In additional to the standard text and images, this 'book' reads the narrative aloud to students who may not have reached the reading level required, has links to apps where students can create projects from claymation movies to posters, and allows each student to submit their projects in the document. Hence, their work becomes embedded in their copy.
But the most critical part of the book is the videos.
Aboriginal staff at Nowra Public School agreed to share their favourite places in the Shoalhaven with students, share their thoughts about NAIDOC Week, and introduce the tasks.
It took two full days for staff to shoot the videos. Many were hesitant to bring something deeply personal to the forefront.
But all agreed it was a significant opportunity to educate students about Aboriginal culture and history.
Hours of overtime were invested in editing and compiling the videos, as well as creating the tasks in the book and drawing the artwork. To the best of our knowledge, nothing else like it exists in a NSW school.
Vice-principal Brad Tate said the hard work was well worth it.
"We wanted to move past tokenistic stuff and do something for our community," he said.
"We can always do better in Aboriginal education and in engaging with the community, but we're very proud we have embedded this in our day-to-day."
Students had spent about an hour a day working through their books, since well before NAIDOC Week began.
And the response to their teacher's videos has been overwhelmingly positive.
Teacher Julie Ramires said the teachers involved had enjoyed a bit of celebrity since the book was released.
"One little kid walked past me and said 'I've seen you on TV, you're a star'," she said.
"Aboriginal teachers have never been shown in this light before, [students are] seeing us for who we are."
Teacher Tracey Aldridge, who also took part in the project, said the familiar faces in the workbook helped personalise this year's NAIDOC theme for students.
"Every child has commented on it," she said.
"When they can connect the idea to a person, it resonates with them."
In addition to providing a unique resource for their students, the staff said the project had other unexpected benefits.
Mel Nye and Tracey Wellington were both initially reluctant to be part of the project but said they had developed a special connection with the other staff involved.
"To make something so special out of such a crappy year has been amazing," Ms Nye said.
The school's AEO, Ruth Simms, OAM, said in more than 40 years in the education system, she never expected to see anything like the NAIDOC book.
"I always grew up knowing who I was," she said.
"My mother was a storyteller; she knew our history. My dad was Stolen Generation, and he taught me to stand up for our rights.
"It's a living culture, but this technology has captured part of that, and it shows our land, which is beautiful.
"Aboriginal education is for all children, and as Australians, we need to appreciate what we have at our doorstep.
"And when we work as a team, we can produce something wonderful like this."