Young Advocates, HENRY CARPENTER

As part of the Catholic Schools Office Virtual Academy, students from the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle are encouraged to think across disciplines to solve real world-problems in an area of interest to them. 

At the end of the year, students in the Virtual Academy present their research to a panel of education, industry, and community experts. It is a rewarding opportunity for some of the Diocese’s most highly gifted students to advocate for matters close to their heart and understand their ability to apply their critical and creative thinking skills to drive change. The academy supports extended learning for students in Years 5-8.

Here is a snapshot of Henry Carpenter's current research project:

Year 6, St Aloysius Primary School, Chisholm
Henry has a longstanding interest in palaeontology, which is the study of ancient life. So, when asked to develop an enquiry question relating to the local environment, he turned his attention to Aboriginal culture to better understand the wisdom our Indigenous people have amassed through their longstanding relationship with country.

"I am very interested in palaeontology and have always loved to listen to Dreaming stories," said Henry. "So, when I heard about the great floods onto the beaches, how the koala lost its long tail unlike the tree kangaroo, and how the kangaroo learnt to hop, I was very surprised about how accurate but obscure some of them are."

Keen to build his knowledge in this area of interest, Henry formulated the following enquiry question: "How can we incorporate native wildlife and local Aboriginal culture into our lives, and what difference can it make for ourselves, and the local Awabakal community, both in the present and the future?”

While Henry's research is ongoing and includes surveying fellow students and an abundance of online investigation, he has also developed great insight by interviewing Craig Duncan, a Gamilaraay person. Mr Duncan is an Education Officer (Aboriginal Education) with the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, and shared his knowledge of Gamilaraay culture, native plants, and animals. In addition, Henry has participated in an Aboriginal astronomy lesson hosted by Aunty Joanne Selfe, a Gadigal woman who is one of the founders of Wirringa Baiya, the NSW Aboriginal women's legal service, and an elder of the Youth Koori Court.

Later this year, Henry will present his findings on ways people can improve their understanding of Aboriginal culture to help and protect the environment. He's already hinted there may be some recipe inspiration on the cards using native ingredients, and encouragement to learn Aboriginal languages and the art of storytelling.


In 2021 the Virtual Academy presentation day will be held online via Microsoft Teams on Thursday 25 November. During the day we will acknowledge and celebrate our students and provide them with the opportunity to discuss their learning and their work with a group of very interested and knowledgeable experts. Each student’s presentation will be based on their research project completed as part of a their unit of work. 

Gifted Education is a focus for schools in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle. To discover more about our Gifted Education program click here. 

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Lizzie Watkin

Lizzie is Team Leader Content for the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

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