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Blessed with a beautiful sunny 25 degrees, six families with blind or vision impaired children and their siblings, converged on Serendip Sanctuary in Lara for an exciting school holiday Junior Rangers Program.
The session commenced with Wadawurrung Parks Victoria Ranger, Ebonee, leading us on a Wildlife Walk. First stop was the open grassy woodlands, where kids felt grass taller than themselves and learnt about the threatened Bush Stone-Curlew that relies on this habitat for shelter and food. Next, we met Leonard the Bearded Dragon lizard and kids were allowed to gently stroke his back, feeling the soft spikes along the sides of his belly. For 6 year old Lily, getting up close and patting Leonard was definitely her highlight!
As the Wildlife Walk continued, we passed emus and kangaroos, touched a giant emu egg, and even had a go at trying to jump as far as a kangaroo in a long-distance-jumping sandpit. The last stop was the bird sanctuary and wetland. Here, Ebonee enticed a friendly parrot on to her shoulder and we all laughed as it cheekily picked through her hair – she assured us her hair was clean! We also noticed Freckled Ducks under bushes, a White Faced Heron incubating a clutch of pale blue eggs up in a tree, and elegant Brolgas roaming around. To enrich the experience, Ebonee played the calling sounds of each animal we encountered through a large speaker in her basket. It was hard to stifle a giggle when a snorting sound, comparable to a pig, was played to show what a Cape Barren Goose sounds like.
Hungry bellies and tired legs called for a necessary lunch break, and families spread themselves out on picnic tables under the shade of pine trees. This rest was a great opportunity for parents and kids alike to socialise with each other, something everyone had missed dearly in lockdown during 2020.
At last, it was time for the Wadawurrung cultural activity, and Ebonee had brought along a basket of Aboriginal hunting tools to share. These were passed around and kids were encouraged to guess what they had been used for and to ask any questions that came to mind. Two year old Muhammad enjoyed touching a soft possum cloak, 11 year old Izzy wondered what the difference was between the two types of boomerangs, Skylah made a great rhythm on the wooden clap sticks, and 8 year old Elijah said, “I really enjoyed playing the ‘Emu Caller’, it made a great sound!”
This wildlife oasis in Melbourne’s West was a new discovery for all who attended, but I am sure after this fantastic day, it will be the first of many visits to come. Blind Sports & Recreation Victoria would like to thank Parks Victoria for their ongoing generosity and support, as well as Rangers Vanessa and Ebonee, for their invaluable sharing of knowledge and genuine commitment to inclusion.