A former Kiama High School student has received an award acknowledging her dedication and commitment in the establishment of an Indigenous garden.

Jessie McIntosh created her work in 2014 as her HSC project and has since received a plaque to signify the importance of her creation within the school.

Many attended a ceremony that was held in her honour, at the garden, revealing its official name, ‘Jessie’s Garden’ on a plaque. Its Dharawal name is ‘Budjari NGura’, meaning ‘Good Country’.

“I was so proud; I didn’t think there would be such a focus on me,” Jessie said. “I am excited that the plaque recognises that I was the creator, it justifies all the work I did and I think it is something that the garden was really missing.”

Although unable to attend the ceremony, due to travel, Jessie later returned to Kiama High school to visit the new addition to her garden.

The garden contains a three pole art installation surrounded by a variety of Indigenous plants and bush medicines.

“I wanted to put something in the school that students and staff would respect, whilst also raising awareness for Indigenous culture,” Jessie said.

A highlight of Jessie’s Garden is the hand prints on the poles representing the students’ connection to country.

Indigenous Studies Teacher Donna Duggan encouraged the connection in her students, represented by Jessie in the creation of the garden.

Mrs Duggan acknowledges that the garden initially did not attract the respect she had hoped for.

“It’s taken me a couple of years since Jessie’s class had left to really build up that respect for the garden” Mrs Duggan said. “It was just a dumping ground, the Year 7 kids were running through it and just being disrespectful.”

Since Jessie left Kiama High school the garden has had time to flourish. It has become a stimulus for positive conversations between the students and teachers and has reinstated respect and awareness for Aboriginal culture within the school environment.

“It has been like the ripple effect, Mrs Duggan said. “There is definitely a lot more cultural things happening within the school and Jessie has definitely contributed to that.”

Kiama High School now has multiple Indigenous art installations, with plans for more on the way.