Close to 600 students from Sydney Catholic schools and others attended the 10th annual Commemoration Service for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Veterans along with Australian Defence Force members, community and government representatives to recognise the sacrifices made by Australian Indigenous soldiers who fought at war.
The event, held at Hyde Park on May 27, coincided with National Reconciliation Week.
After a smoking ceremony Sydney Catholic Schools Performing Arts (CaSPA) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ensemble Murrawadeen Goodjarga performed to Youth Yindi’s Gapu. The dance was choreographed by Taryn Beatty.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Primary Year 6 students Latisha Silva and Duane Roberts were among the party which laid the official wreath.
Aunty Fay Carroll delivered a welcome to country, paying respects to the Gadigal people of the Eora nation and highlighting the contribution of Indigenous soldiers in the World War I and World War II.
“We are here today for a special reason,” she told students. “Without these people and the sacrifice they made you would not have the lifestyle and the freedom that you have today.”
Budjalung tribe member David Williams delivered the veteran’s address. He said the skills he had gained through a career in the defence force and education and communication were important for young Australians to take up their role as future leaders of their Indigenous communities.
Without these people and the sacrifice they made you would not have the lifestyle and the freedom that you have today.
He invited students to introduce themselves to the Army, Navy and Airforce personnel at the ceremony and learn from their experiences.
“You children have got to take over from us and you’ve got to do a better job than us,” he told the students.
“Joining the military gave us the opportunity to learn new skills. There was a girl from Redfern who was told by her teachers that she wasn’t going to amount to much at all. She’s a group captain in the Airforce now and a professor at university. The military gave her that opportunity.
“There was another chap from the Tiwi Islands. His mother was in the Navy, his father was in the Navy and he’s the first surgeon to come out of the Tiwi fellas.”
Mr Williams also told the young audience there were “more good people out there willing to say G’day mate, than there are bad”.
“What we have to do is communicate more, because it’s up to you to go back to community and run it,” he said. “Our regional towns are behind because of [lack of] employment, that’s why education is so important.”
Patrician Brothers College Fairfield Year 10 student Lachlan Kenton said the service was a good way to recognise the contribution of Indigenous soldiers past and present. “I liked what David said. It is up to young people to prepare for and lead in the future,” he said. “We all need to contribute our skills for the good of our communities.”
Goodjarga ensemble member Caitlyn Joseph, in Year 9 at Bethlehem College Ashfield, said they group rehearsed the dance for two weeks.
“I like being part of Goodjarga because we get to perform at different places and for different ceremonies,” she said. “The service was very good. It’s good to recognise the traditional owners of the land and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander soldiers. They went to war as well and they deserved to get recognised for it.”
Sydney Catholic Schools that attended the Commemoration Service for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Veterans:
All Saints Catholic College Liverpool,
All Saints Catholic Senior College Casula,
Bethany College Hurstville,
Bethlehem College Ashfield,
Brigidine College Randwick,
Casimir Catholic College Marrickville,
De La Salle College Ashfield,
Holy Family Catholic Primary Menai,
Marist Sisters College Woolwich,
Mount St Joseph Milperra,
Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Primary Caringbah,
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Primary Waterloo,
Patrician Brothers’ College Fairfield,
Sacred Heart Catholic Primary Mosman,
St Andrew’s Catholic Primary Malabar,
St Brendan’s Catholic Primary Annandale,
St Fiacre’s Catholic Primary Leichhardt,
St Finbar’s Catholic Primary Sans Souci,
St Paul of the Cross Catholic Primary Dulwich Hill
St Pius Catholic Primary Enmore
St John Bosco Catholic Primary Engadine.