Each year National Reconciliation Week builds on the respectful relationships shared by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians. It is a time for our CEDoW school communities to honour and learn about our shared histories, cultures and achievements, and to explore how each of us can join the reconciliation journey.
National Reconciliation Week is celebrated between 27 May and 3 June annually. These dates commemorate two significant milestones that helped our nation chart a course towards reconciliation and healing, the 1967 Referendum and the Mabo High Court decision. Participation in reconciliation week is strongly supported by CEDoW encouraging a deeper understanding of our national story, which is in keeping with this year’s theme, 'Don’t keep history a mystery: Learn. Share. Grow'.
Australians come from many countries, of all faiths, all cultures and all backgrounds. It is important to recognise that reconciliation means different things to different people. In our schools, reconciliation means working towards understanding and learning about individual values and how we can live together in harmony in the midst of extraordinary diversity.
National Reconciliation Week provides a great opportunity for our schools to organise and attend commemorative events as a way of strengthening community understanding and engagement with reconciliation, reinforcing the importance of inclusiveness to all Australians.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture has been showcased around the Diocese at several National Reconciliation Week celebrations over the past two weeks including:
MINTO SORRY DAY SERVICE
An important event for local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to remember and celebrate the rich culture and history of the First Australians, student representatives and staff from across the Macarthur region were invited to the Sorry Day Service, held at Holy Trinity Church, Minto on Wednesday 23 May.
Many school and community groups attended, including St John’s, Campbelltown, St Thomas More, Ruse, John Therry, Rosemeadow, Mt Carmel, Varroville and St Benedict’s, Oran Park, with the church packed out and overflowing. The students had the opportunity to meet and spend time with Elders and families from the community.
Winga Myamly Reconciliation Group Coordinator, Sister Kerry Mcdermott, gave students from St John's the wonderful opportunity of reading a special prayer for the Stolen Generation. Participating schools were also offered the experience of placing symbols representing their school communities onto the sacred space.
The service was a beautiful celebration of the musical and cultural talents of local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students including John Therry didgeridoo players and school choir singing From Little Things Big Things Grow, with lyrics adapted by CEDoW Professional Assistant to the Director, Mark Raue (2018) and inspired by The Getup Mob version (2009).
John Therry students, Jasmine Belbin and Keisha Ring, reflected on the service “Year 7 students, the choir and some older boys who play the didgeridoo attended the Sorry Day Service at Minto. The service was nice and after there was a whole lot of food for all. One of our main jobs was to help the Elders to their seats and then assist them get their food. This was a great opportunity to represent John Therry and we think that we all did a good job”.
Our CEDoW student representatives are to be commended for their respectful participation.
SHELLHARBOUR SCHOOL FLAG WALK
Shellharbour City Council hosted the 2018 Reconciliation School Flag Walk at Shellharbour Village on Monday 28 May, honouring the Aboriginal culture and heritage of the local community.
Schools from the Shellharbour electorate were invited to attend, with representatives from Corpus Christi, Oak Flats, St Joseph's, Albion Park, Stella Maris, Shellharbour, Nazareth, Shellharbour City and St Paul's, Albion Park participating.
Schools were presented with a certificate from local Elders and participated in a range of engagement workshops including storytelling, artefacts, weaponry, bush survival and history, as well as being entertained by Aboriginal performance group, Koomurri. Students and staff also had the opportunity to share a BBQ lunch with local Elders and the community.
BELLAMBI WALK FOR RECONCILIATION
The Bellambi Reconciliation Walk was held on Friday 1 June with more than 2000 students from northern Illawarra schools attending, as well as over 400 community members including students and staff from Holy Spirit College, Bellambi and St Columbkille's, Corrimal.
A smoking ceremony by Jade Kennedy and Uncle Richard Archibald commenced proceedings, with students from many of the schools participating. A highlight was by Holy Spirit student Courtney Wheatley, performing a contemporary Aboriginal dance piece choreographed by an ex-student of Holy Spirit, Sara Cabezas.
For those in attendance, it was a moving walk providing an opportunity to recognise Australia's First Peoples and to move towards true reconciliation.
Reconciliation must live in the hearts, minds and actions of all Australians as we move forward, creating a nation strengthened by respectful relationships between the wider Australian community, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples (Reconciliation Australia 2018).