Aboriginal elders, journalist Stan Grant and the Mayor of Leichhardt Darcy Byrne were among the guests at St Brendan’s Catholic Primary Annandale on April 6 for the launch of the school’s Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP).
The school’s RAP is a declaration of commitment and action to promote reconciliation between the wider Australian community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. It has been a year in the making and was developed in consultation with students, teachers, parents, Reconciliation Australia and Leichhardt Council’s Deborah Lennis, Community Development Officer Aboriginal Programs and Community and Cultural Services.
There is a rich indigenous community in our local area.
The launch began with a ‘Welcome to Country’ from Gadigal elder Uncle Ray Davison, who was supported by De La Salle College Ashfield student, Isaac Bamblett on didgeridoo and St Vincent’s Ashfield student, Tyrrell Corby on clap sticks. Indigenous students from Casimir Catholic College Marrickville, St James’ Catholic Primary Glebe and St Scholastica’s College Glebe Point also played roles at the launch with the St Scholastica’s girls performing several indigenous dances.
St Brendan’s Principal Louise Maguire said the core elements of a RAP were becoming better informed about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history and cultures and building strong relationships with the local indigenous community.
“People think they have to go to western NSW or to Alice Spring to meet Aboriginal people but there is a rich indigenous community in our local area. We would not have been able to develop a RAP without the guidance of Deborah Lennis from Leichhardt Council and we have made wonderful relationships with indigenous teachers and students at nearby Sydney Catholic schools – St Scholastica’s College Glebe Point, St James Catholic Primary Glebe, Casimir Catholic College Marrickville, De La Salle College Ashfield and St Vincent’s Catholic Primary Ashfield.”
It isn’t ‘us and them’. You are also connected to the deep history of this country.
Speaking at the launch, journalist and Wiradjuri man Stan Grant told the students it was important to acknowledge the past and learn about Aboriginal history and culture but it was also vital to think about the sort of country we want Australia to be.
“Australia does not belong just to me as an Aboriginal person. It isn’t an ‘us and them’ – you are also connected to the deep history of this country. We need to make a commitment to changing our country and it’s going to be the efforts of young people like you to make the change.”
Leichhardt Mayor, Darcy Byrne congratulated St Brendan’s on their RAP and encouraged the students to reach out to Aboriginal people living in the inner west and to anyone who was doing it tough to make them feel welcome.
“We have to have a bigger and bolder vision of being a citizen in the inner west and at the heart of that has to be social justice,” he said.
As well as forming links with Indigenous teachers and students at inner west Catholic schools, other RAP initiatives at St Brendan’s include acknowledgement of country in assemblies and electing a team of Year 6 students as Cultural Awareness Leaders to ensure the school community is respectful and understanding of all cultures. St Brendan’s students have also taken part in cultural days led by Aboriginal people, attended Indigenous excursions and continued their learning about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures in class.
Year 6 student Archie Campbell said it was good that they were getting a better understanding of what being Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander means so that he can spread the word that everyone is equal and try and make a difference.
Classmate Zoe Fletcher, who is one of the school’s Cultural Awareness Leaders, said she hoped to raise awareness about different cultures and how they can all be together as one.
Alana Taylor, Aboriginal Education Worker at Casimir Catholic College Marrickville said being part of the launch was a good leadership experience for her students.
“They love being involved in activities where they get to share their culture especially with the younger children. They are eager to come back and do dance workshops with them and our Visual Arts student Elijah is looking forward to developing his St Brendan’s RAP artwork with input from the students.”
Ms Maguire said St Brendan’s students were excited about continuing their contact with indigenous students from inner west Catholic schools, learning more about their culture and joining in a day of ‘Indigenous games’ later in the year.
For more information on developing a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) go to the Reconciliation Australia website and click on Narragunnawali: Reconciliation in Schools and Early Learning.