SCIENTIFIC evidence has shown that finding moments of awe in our everyday lives makes us happier, healthier, kinder and more connected to each other.

Gippsland Grammar students were lucky to have plenty of awe added to their lessons recently, courtesy of The Dome, a large-scale, portable planetarium that offered students an ‘immersive educational experience incorporating both traditional and scientific knowledge to tell four Indigenous stories exploring 140,000 years of our history’.

This feature-length full-dome planetarium show titled The Earth Above: A Deep Time View of Australia’s Epic History was hosted by the Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation (GLaWAC) in collaboration with the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage (CABAH), Deakin MotionLab and the University of Wollongong’s (UOW) ‘Science Space’.

Gippsland Grammar students from Years 3, 7, 8 and 9 were given the opportunity to attend the 30-minute show, which explored Australia’s past 140,000 years, incorporating traditional and scientific knowledge to tell Australia’s epic story and transport viewers to four locations: Girraween Lagoon on Larrakia and Wulna Country outside Darwin in the NT; Cloggs Cave on Gunaikurnai Country in Gippsland, Victoria; Lake Mungo in NSW on the land of the Barkandji/Paakantyi, Ngyiampaa and Mutthi Mutthi people, and; Jiigurru (Lizard Island) on the Great Barrier Reef, sacred to many, including the Dingaal community.

Gippsland Grammar students lie down to take in the full Dome experience.

The school’s co-head of Outdoor Education, Cass Booth, worked closely with GLaWAC to bring the portable dome to Gippsland Grammar’s Garnsey Campus where it was set up in the campus’ Chapel of St Anne (one of the few buildings with a roof high enough to accommodate it) and said the experience was incredibly well received by students and staff alike.

“An important aspect of our school’s Outdoor Education program is understanding a scene of place,” Ms Booth said.

“Which means getting to know our local environment at a deeper level.

“This planetarium experience gave our students the opportunity for their scene of place to flourish. Though many had been to Buchan and surrounding areas on camps, this show gave them a view never seen before. The Gunaikurnai community, as well as CABAH, have developed a remarkable immersive experience that will positively impact all those who get the opportunity to view it.”

As for the students’ response to seeing these ancient stories come to life? Ms Booth reiterated their cumulative sense of awe.

“They were all filled with awe and astonishment,” she said.

“And the words they kept repeating were ‘breathtaking’, ‘fascinating’, ‘amazing’ and ‘beautiful’. To then follow this up with discussions with both GLaWAC and CABAH, staff further reinforced their learnings and emphasised the strength of this experience.

“I can’t thank enough those who were involved in creating this experience and I hope that one day we can share this experience to more of our school and local community.”

Gippsland Grammar Humanities teacher, Michelle Reynolds, and University of Wollongong’s ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage Chief Executive, Nathan Wright address students outside The Dome.

For GLaWAC RAP Manager, Uncle Russell Mullett, the opportunity to share insights about Gunaikurnai culture with the younger generation is immensely important.

“Our people have always been storytellers, it’s embedded in our living culture,” he said.

“The Dome provides a unique experience to share the stories of our Old Ancestors with our young ones, and to continue to honour and learn about this vast cultural landscape.”

For CABAH Chief Executive, Nathan Wright, the opportunity to present the program on Country alongside GLaWAC was a special occasion.

“It has been an incredible journey with GLaWAC in developing this program and the research that underpins it, and it was a great experience to be able to stand alongside GLaWAC and show the finished video on Gunaikurnai Country,” he said.

“The film will be available in planetariums around the country, but the beauty of the portable dome is that it allows us to reach regional areas, especially those communities we have been lucky enough to work with.

“We are very thankful to Gippsland Grammar and all the schools who hosted us and allowed us to share these stories with the students.”

Gippsland Grammar Year 12 students Tara Nichols and Sage Walters are in awe of The Dome. Photos: Contributed