A celebration and immersion of local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture provided a memorable experience for over 60 staff from across the Diocese at a recent CEDoW conference.
Guided by the theme, Reconciliation: Everyone’s Business, the two-day event held at The Hermitage in Mittagong invited Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Teacher Contacts and Aboriginal Education Assistants (AEAs) from our schools, and other Catholic Education personnel to reflect on our collective mission to partner with families and community in welcoming and supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to reach their full potential and embrace their culture and identity.
It was the first time key contributors to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education in our schools and across Catholic Education Diocese of Wollongong have gathered together to share conversation and strategically plan for the implementation of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Policy at their schools, launched diocese-wide last year.
For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of Australia, reconciliation means honouring the history, continuing to tell the story and preparing the way forward. The two days provided an opportunity to speak about this process of reconciliation in Australia and what that means for us in the Diocese of Wollongong as a system of schools and in each individual school.
The conference explored the concept that Reconciliation is not to be driven just by the First Peoples, but is a corporate and individual responsibility of all Australians.
“The theme Reconciliation: Everyone’s Business reminded everyone gathered, especially the AEAs and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Contacts, that we all have a role in our schools to challenge others to consider how we can all be agents of transformation and reconciliation, to challenge the way we do business and to build right relationships,” Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Officer, Karan Taylor said.
Throughout the conference, there was meaningful sharing of story and culture through a number of activities, Q&A sessions and workshops including weaving, art, a deeper look at the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander educational resources given to each school, and the creation of ‘Message Sticks’ which were then used in the closing ritual.
Participants were also invited to place a dot or series of dots on a canvas with the outline of the map of Australia. The canvas slowly filled over the two days, creating a beautiful, evolving communal artwork over the event.
There were notable guest contributions, including:
An exploration of the “Walking the Way of the Cross with an Aboriginal Man” resource, by Richard Campbell and Louise Campbell.
A special presentation to our Aboriginal female colleagues, acknowledging the 2018 NAIDOC theme: “Because of Her We Can”;
An inspiring keynote dinner address from Jason Gillard from AIME (Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience);
Aboriginal Elder, Aunty Wendy’s Smoking Ceremony, which cleansed and connected participants to country and led into our celebration of the Eucharist;
Fr Michael Dyer, who presided over the closing Eucharist which incorporated many aspects of Aboriginal culture and spirituality.
Hear from Vanessa and Jody on their work as CEDoW Aboriginal Education Assistants:
The Catholic Education Office thanks all those who attended and contributed to such a constructive conference - all with the goal of furthering our work in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education.
National Reconciliation Week runs from 27 May - 3 June 2018.