Colourful murals at Mountains schools

Becky Chatfield, school learning support officer and Sistaspeak co-ordinator, with students Celeste Arnold-Davis and Isabella Luken in front of the eastern water dragon.

Becky Chatfield, school learning support officer and Sistaspeak co-ordinator, with students Celeste Arnold-Davis and Isabella Luken in front of the eastern water dragon.

From Faulconbridge Public’s glossy black cockatoos to Katoomba High School’s totems to the bright rosella and possum on the doors of the Montessori pre-school at Blackheath, Darug artist Leanne Tobin is spreading the word about the Mountains’ flora and fauna.

Leanne Tobin and her son, Shay, with the new doors for the Blackheath Montessori Centre pre-school.

Leanne Tobin and her son, Shay, with the new doors for the Blackheath Montessori Centre pre-school.

Her latest effort, completed with the help of son Shay, is a pair of doors for the Blackheath Montessori Centre.

“I use them as a teaching tool,” said Tobin. “I teach about the plants and animals of the Mountains and the connections between them.”

There’s native food, including the geebung and appleberry, and butterflies which pollinate the flowers.

Tobin was teaching the preschoolers as she and her son, Shay, painted the doors.

When it came to a mural at Katoomba High School, the students were more hands-on, painting many of the creatures themselves.

At first glance, the mural looks like just a colourful collection of native animals. But a closer look reveals the totems of the Upper Mountains primary schools, the feeder schools for Katoomba High.

They include the giant dragon fly, lyre bird, eastern water dragon, grey kangaroo, echidna, crimson rosella, sulphur crested white cockatoo, king parrot and eel.

Tobin said the totems were chosen to smooth the often rough path from year 6 into “big” school.

“Hopefully the kids coming from primary will have that sense of familiarity when they come up to high school,” she said.

The artwork was a project of Sistaspeak, the school’s mentoring program for young Indigenous women. One of the students, Isabella Luken from year 9, said she looked at the mural with pride.

“It gives a different atmosphere when you walk in. It makes the front of the school look better.”

And fellow artist, Celeste Arnold-Davis from year 7, liked the use of all the birds and animals.

“All of the schools connect through using all of their totems,” she said.

Ms Chatfield said through Sistaspeak, the girls learnt about dance and weaving as well as art. They also canvassed other issues relevant to Indigenous students, including mental and physical health.

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