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Encounters. Indigenous contact and culture: a classroom resource

Caution: This website includes images and names of deceased people that may cause distress to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Jerrinja and Wandi Wandian country

Shoalhaven, New South Wales

Aboriginal people from the Shoalhaven region on the south coast of New South Wales marked their country with hand stencils and tree carvings. Explore how these traditions inspire artists today.

  • A map of Australia showing the location of Shoalhaven, New South Wales
    Shoalhaven, New South Wales
  • Shoalhaven, New South Wales
    Setting the scene
  • Large oval shaped wooden shield, painted with broad red bars with white spots on a black background. The reverse side features a handle and sprinklings of white paint as well as two hand stencils.
  • Postcard showing two men pointing up at hand stencils on a rock face.
    Hand stencils postcard
  • A lacquered wooden pole with an elliptical shaped carving across the top depicting a canoe which is surrounded with carved fish and wave-lines.
    Carved pole
  • One end of a lacquered wooden pole with carved fish and wave-lines.
    Carved pole (detail)
  • Portrait of Noel Wellington
    Noel Wellington


Match the words to the pictures

What do you know about the Shoalhaven?

Video stories

Learn about marking the landscape

Watch this video where Wandi Wandian Elder Uncle Sonny Simms talks about the tradition of marking the landscape with carvings and stencils.

Activity: Have a class discussion about the ways people have marked the landscape where you live.

More activities

Carved pole

Activity: Look at the carved pole sculpture by Jerrinja artist Noel Wellington. What do you think he means when he says he is ‘expressing his identity’? What do you think he is trying to ‘reflect’?

What symbols would you use to represent yourself? Create an artwork that incorporates some of these symbols. Make sure you also include a place in your artwork that is significant to you – it could be your school, your home or a place you have visited.


Activity: The Shoalhaven shield, pictured above, was displayed at an international exhibition in London in 1862. Learn more about this exhibition by looking at the images on the Science and Society website. You can even see the entire exhibition catalogue on the Grace's Guide to British Industrial History website.

Read this quote from The Times, 29 March 1862:

Every day now develops new wonders and rarities arrived or expected for this great display. Goods of every kind and from every country are now pouring in from morning till night … All parts of Australia will, of course, send fine collections.

Imagine you were a person living in London at this time. Write a letter to a friend describing your visit to the exhibition and what you thought when you saw the shield.

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