Walking-with Gabbiljee at Bush School

This blog is the first in a series that will trace a 10-week inquiry into the Place Stories emerging from Place-children encounters that take place during Bush School.

This is my second walk-with Gabbiljee, the watery place at the end of Derbarl Yerrigan. Gabbiljee, now known as Bull Creek, is situated on Noongar Country in Perth, Western Australia.


It is Djeran season, a time that signals a change in the temperature; the cool night air has left the gift of dew on trees, grass, earth and leaf litter. As we walk towards what the children call Tree Land, the smell of dampness is hard to miss. It is a musty, moist smell that is hard to put into words but we know that it is there; it hangs in the air as we sit together to acknowledge that this Place is Noongar Country.

Hesitating and sitting-with Place helps us to notice that this Place is shaped by many histories and stories.


It’s time to explore and to make our own Place stories. Children scatter in all directions, but it is the damp, leaf littered earth that stops several children in their tracks.

What might be underneath the jumble of leaves, twigs, seed pods and bark that covers the ground?

“Somethings moving! There’s something there!”

It is a slater, also known as a woodlouse. At first glance, it seems that the children are the main characters in this slater story. Curious to see what happens, we shift our focus to notice how Place initiates, shapes and crafts stories in which humans are not the main players. We begin noticing how slaters are active and alive. While noticing these small insects, we wonder, “What different types of stories might emerge?”

Becoming-with Slaters

Leaf litter, helped along by damp earth and slaters are inviting children into relation. Slaters need damp habitats to survive and perhaps the combination of wetlands soil and dewy Djeran air has invited more slaters than usual. Suddenly, many come out of hiding, inviting children to feel, smell, hear and be with leaf litter, soil and slaters.

“Oooh, it’s ticklish! This one’s friendly!”

“It looks so cute, it’s adorable!”

“He’s trying to climb off my hand!”

“This one’s a bit lazy!”

“Oh, they’re jumping!”

“One just climbed over the other and it didn’t do anything about it.”

“One’s in a ball! This one’s in a ball!”

Foraging-with Koorlbardi

Like slater, Koorlbardi (magpie) has important relations with leaf litter. This is where Koorlbardi forages for food. Koorlbardi seems to notice our foraging. We are also seeking slaters, but not for food.

Notice how Koorlbardi hesitates, then stalks closer to where we sit. Watching for a while, Koorlbardi is distracted and moves away from us, over to where other children play.

I wonder if Koolbardi wants to join in? 

Uneasy Slater Relations

Not all slater-children relations are easy. Some make us feel uncomfortable.  

“We can’t find any slaters!”

“I think he doesn’t want to come out.”

“Where can I find more slaters?”

“That one looks dead!”

Maybe slaters don’t always want to be in relation with us?

And then,

“Stop! Slaters might be underneath your feet!” This comment from one of the children causes the children to stop in their tracks. For a while, slaters are forgotten.

I wonder what slater stories are emerging when we are not there? Or under the leaf litter where we cannot see? Do we need to see? What kinds of knowledge might help us to be in good relation with slaters and with this Place?

Here are some resources that might be useful when thinking about knowing this Place:



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