World Soil Day painted with ochre

Indigenous scientists from the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) celebrated World Soil Day in Wagga Wagga, with a unique interactive workshop at the Riverina Environmental Education Centre.

Indigenous scientists from the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) celebrated World Soil Day in Wagga Wagga, with a unique interactive workshop at the Riverina Environmental Education Centre

The celebration brought ‘science to life’ for students, who got their hands dirty understanding how ochre, weathered rock and clay of different colours, is used in traditional Aboriginal art and ceremony.

“Soil is definitely not a dirty word and today, it’s one of the most significant parts of our ecosystem, contributing to our gardens, agricultural production and in this case art and culture,” said Greg Summerell, Science Division, “What could be seen as a ‘dry’ topic really is cause for celebration around the world.”

At the workshop, OEH’s Aboriginal soil scientists talked about soil from a western perspective and more about its traditional and cultural uses.

“The celebration showed kids how ochre is taken from soil and transformed into paint used for hand stencilling and other Aboriginal art.

“Along the way, they were able to discover the science behind the art, the different ochre colours, soil types and binding agents that have been used for hundreds of thousands of years in Aboriginal culture,” said senior soils team leader, Kristen Clancy.

“By bringing soil science to life kids might be inspired into one day studying or working in science, particularly Aboriginal kids whose traditional scientific knowledge is still very much relevant today.”

World Soil Day started in 2002 by the International Union of Soil Sciences to celebrate the importance of soil as a critical component of the natural system and as a vital contributor to human well-being.

The Riverina Environmental Education Centre (REEC) is situated on the Olympic Way at the Wagga Wagga research centre, providing services to public schools in NSW, catering for around 5,000 students each year. The REEC is a facility of the NSW Department of Education and Communities and co-managed with the Office of Environment and Heritage.