Creating Connections

Rockhampton Grammar School Early Learning Centre staff are proudly wearing some new shirts honouring the region’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, and it’s all thanks to the artistic talent of RGS Year 12 graduate Shobi Salam.

Shobi designed the shirt in her final year of school, with the front of the shirt capturing the Aboriginal community while the shirt’s back honours the Torres Strait Islander community.

RGS Early Learning Centre Director Mrs Adeina Shackleton said as part of the Centre’s Reconciliation Action Plan, the service identified that one of the ways they could visibly display their respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture was to wear Indigenous designed shirts for days of significance and also on a regular basis at the service. 

Mrs Shackleton invited RGS students to submit designs for the shirts.

“The chosen design, created by Shobi, reflected these elements so beautifully and told the story of our service and community history, our “why” for providing quality early childhood education and the Darumbal culture,’’ Mrs Shackleton said.

“Educators at the ELC are wearing these shirts proudly,’’ Mrs Shackleton said.

Shobi’s brief on her artwork submission noted the Aboriginal design honoured the Darumbal people of this area and Tonuba (the Fitzroy River) which is a central part of Rockhampton both historically and in the present day. The brown river linked the front and back designs.

Shobi also included Totems, the people’s spiritual conneciont to their ancestral groups. The water lily is the Darumbal peoples totem while the green tree frog is also a common totem for Darumbal people.

Shobi said Nyha Nikki, an elder in this area of Darumbal country, along with her daughter Aunty Kristina were instrumental in sharing Darumbal culture with others and educating about Darumbal ways and history. The green tree frog is their totem.

The front of the shirt also incorporated goats, that once walked on the hills where RGS now stands and is featured on the School’s crest, along with School House and the Bell Tower which represent the School.

“RGS is like the sun: full of energy, warmth, a life force, a home, guiding the way. RGS welcomes and accepts,’’ said Shobi, a boarder from Mossman in North Queensland who attended RGS from Year 7 to Year 12 through the Cape York Leaders Program.

On the shirt’s back, the ELC playground’s tree is featured with the tree representing growth and life while the roots become hands, which cradle a baby within.

“The footprints going up around the tree grow larger as their journey progresses, indicating growth and the life journey,’’ Shobi said.

“I didn’t personally know anyone locally who creates Torres Strait Island designs, so I researched local and Far North Queensland Torres Strait Island designs and motifs.
 
“The flowers and leaves tie in the themes of garden and growth, which are intrinsic to the ELC. The other motifs are my own personal designs, incorporating Torres Strait Island symbols and techniques.”


Shobi is pictured with Mrs Adeina Shackleton