House Totems



In 2019 Kelvin Grove State College implemented the rebranding of their  College Sporting Totem and four houses with refreshed identities, a complete narrative connecting all of the College and Houses to the history of the local area.


A group of very committed and dedicated teachers have been exploring the local history of the area that the college is situated on. The catalyst for this review was triggered when our indigenous garden was officially opened and Uncle Des Sandy shared with those present some of the amazing indigenous history of the local area that was significant to the current College grounds.


From this stimulus, a group of staff have researched the indigenous history as well as the history of the four significant historical figures whose surnames are our current Sports Houses - Herbert, Lutwyche, Bowen and Petrie.


The group worked with local elders to determine the local animals that are important to the traditional owners and collated their names in both Yugara and Turubul language. The students and staff played a role through surveys in selecting the new totems for the Houses thereby linking and blending our local Indigenous history with our European history.


As a result our college Houses are: Bowen Baways (Bull Sharks), Herbert Gabuls (Carpet Snake), Lutwyche Juwherrs (Eagles) and the Petrie Mirris (Dingos).


This research has been cross-checked with the state library and validated and endorsed by local elders. It has now been produced as a Look book.  This book explains the total narrative (Songlines) of the Houses and also our new Kelvin Grove State College totem; the ‘Kuta’, a native bee found on the hillsides of the ranges to the west of Brisbane - that were named after this native bee - Mt Coot-tha.


The House Totem initiative has been a couple of  years in the making.  It has been a whole of college co-creative and collaborative project.  The history around our restorative and reconciliation initiative includes the inclusive community support of local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders, artists, story tellers, performers, parents and carers. 


This initiative impacts our whole college community – (nearly 4000 staff and students) and reaches out to our parents and carers, and the wider community.  We are raising awareness of the culture of our First Nation People through education and community collaboration.  We are empowering our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and our college community to foster reconciliation and create a positive change in our community.


Introduction of the House Totem initiative across the college, includes cultural educational programs such as embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives into the curriculum across Prep to Year 12 through classroom facilitation (across faculties including English, Legal Studies and Philosophy and Reason) dance, song and art. We are also working with Queensland University of Technology (QUT) to develop resources, teaching pedagogy for Pre-Service and New Teachers around the importance of connecting with their local Indigenous communities.



Some examples of our whole college approach include–


The Health and Physical Education (HPE) faculty for their courageous and co-operative assistance with the restructure of the house culture.


The Junior School for authentically embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives into their classroom pedagogy and curriculum through song, dance and art.


The Middle School for their support in showcasing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture through school-based activities, including the indigenous garden as a learning and cultural resource and Indigenous Literacy week.


The Senior School principals, the Senior School team and the Executive team for allocating the time to allow the House Totem project team to research, collate and prepare this information for the college.


The library team for the academic research via the State Library.


The Performing Arts and Visual Arts faculties for their support of indigenous arts and culture in general.


Marketing and PR for showcasing and sharing the narrative around the House Totem initiative in a House Totem look book.


The College Executive Principal for his leadership, imagination and vision of what is possible.


The KGSC community, and elders who have been invaluable to the process of unpacking the deep, defining and wondrous history of this amazing country.



One of the most significant achievements as a result of the initiative includes implementation of our song lines and our indigenous staff house polo shirts and student house shirts.  

The College engaged the services of an indigenous graphic designer to convert our original house totem artwork (by Sharyn Malone) to a digital print that we could then use to brand our house totem suite.  This included coming up with a design for our song lines which originated from the artwork in our yarning circle in our Indigenous garden and from our original house totem canvas prints. These song lines are now our shared narrative and have been incorporated into our college house totem signage, look books, house shirts and the house mascot costume. The above body of work has been governed, produced, and delivered by the Indigenous community and businesses.



Uncle Des Sandy – elder and advisor

Aunty Donna Page – elder who worked with Jimmy and Vis Arts department in early stages

Aunty Valda Coolwell – special events at college, elder and advisor

Uncle Michael Williams – elder who advised and gave approval for project

Uncle Bill Lowah – elder who advised and gave approval for project

Aunty Nicole Williams – wrote our acknowledgment of country – advisor and educator

Northside Elders Committee – advisors and approvers

Sharyn Malone – artist – community representative at college, events, vis arts faculty

Nattassia Georgetown – community advisor

Dita Southwood – community advisor

Katie Bond – community advisor

Elaine Chambers – graphic designer



Last reviewed 19 January 2021
Last updated 19 January 2021