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Woodbridge and Bassendean Primary School students with Dr Noel Nannup, puppeteer Karen Hethey, Andrea Hammond, puppeteer Kate Mallony and indigenous singers Gina Williams and Guy Ghouse.

Butterfly puppets come to life in cultural project

LARGE-scale butterfly puppets made by Woodbridge and Bassendean Primary School students came to life for a cross cultural project last month.

The six-week project began with an immersion day at Trillion Trees in Hazelmere in collaboration with puppeteer and animator Karen Hethey, Woodbridge Primary School teacher Tobi Galley, Bassendean Primary School teacher Kylie Barr and Noongar Elder Noel Nannup.

Trillion Trees environmental educator Andrea Hammond said 150 students spent the morning immersed in nature, indigenous storytelling and the Noongar language songs of singer song-writer Gina Williams and indigenous singer Guy Ghouse. 

“In the afternoon the students rotated through workshops where they were encouraged to think about how they would like to create a performance piece that would express their interpretation of their experience in the morning,” she said.

“The students began the process of writing the script, designing what the large puppets might look like, how they would move and how they would tell the story.”

The project was supported by a $15,000 Department for Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries community engagement grant. 

“Trillion Trees saw the opportunity to engage with neighbouring communities, spread awareness about the Trillion Trees Challenge and further the Education Hub’s goal of using the arts, ecological science and indigenous wisdom to engage students and community members with the environment,” Ms Hammond said.

Students were inspired by Noel Nannup’s story about the mutualistic relationship between the double spotted lined butterfly and ants for the performance script. 

Woodbridge Primary School principal Debbie Hyde said the Blue Butterfly performance showed the importance of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people coming together.

“The play communicated the themes of goodwill, understanding, caring for each other and the environment,” she said.

“Being involved in this project was heartwarming and meaningful respite from the many hard issues I see students and families dealing with today.” 

Artist and puppeteer Karen Hethey said the student’s story raised awareness of the importance of looking after and creating urban forests and the importance of the relationships between living things and how we need to take care of them.

“Along with the giant blue butterfly another 26 puppets came to life and the performance really showed just how passionate and absorbed in the project the kids have been and what can happen when you bring together Noongar cultural and ecological knowledge with environmental science, puppetry and imagination,” she said. 

The newly renamed Trillion Trees, previously Men of the Trees WA, officially launched their name change at an event attended by Governor General Kim Beasley, Hasluck MHR Ken Wyatt and City of Swan Mayor David Lucas on September 22.

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