The school community of St Andrew’s Catholic Primary Malabar embraced the theme of NAIDOC Week – ‘Songlines: the living narrative of our nation’ – celebrating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, culture and achievement from 27-30 June.
With 45 Indigenous students at the school, St Andrew’s is an enthusiastic participator in the annual NAIDOC (National Aboriginal and Islanders Day Observance Committee) Week.
This year’s activities began with a smoking ceremony attended by local elders, parents, State MP Michael Daley, Federal MP Matt Thistlethwaite and Sydney Catholic Schools representatives.
Over the next four days the students joined in traditional Aboriginal games, weaving, shell art and jewellery-making, cooking damper, learning contemporary and traditional dances and songs, designing a NAIDOC badge, and listening to stories of the Dreamtime from Aboriginal student ambassadors from Australian Catholic University.
Indigenous culture is embedded in our school.
The senior students also visited the Reconciliation Church at La Perouse, researched a famous Aboriginal person and took part in totem painting with Aboriginal artist Garry Purchase who travelled to Sydney from his home in Kempsey to be part of the week. At the end of each day, the students reflected on their experiences and recorded what they had enjoyed for presentation at the final assembly.
Indigenous students who went to St Andrew’s and now attend Brigidine College Randwick, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart (OLSH) College Kensington and Marcellin College Randwick returned to their primary school to lead sporting and dance activities and Indigenous students from Our Lady of the Annunciation Catholic Primary Pagewood, St Mary’s-St Joseph’s Catholic Primary Maroubra and St Agnes Catholic Primary Matraville also joined in St Andrew’s NAIDOC activities.
After four full days, the school community gathered in the playground for the closing ceremony featuring a corroboree by the Indigenous students, a contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander song and dance from all the school’s students, and reflections from each year group on the highlights of the week.
St Andrew’s teacher, Rita Jones, who organised the week in consultation with the school’s Aboriginal parent committee, said a highlight for many of St Andrew’s Indigenous students was the involvement of the local La Perouse Aboriginal community, friends and family including a grandfather who travelled from Dubbo to be part of his grandchildren’s NAIDOC week celebrations and pass on his didgeridoo skills.
She said having a strong focus on their culture gave the school’s 45 indigenous students a real sense of pride and the week was a very rich educational experience for all the students.
Principal Leonie Burfield said it was wonderful to have local elders, MPs, parents, family members and Sydney Catholic Schools representatives at the opening smoking ceremony and for many to also be there at the closing corroboree.
“Indigenous culture is embedded in our school and it’s a significant part of who we are so to have four days to celebrate, learn, and reinforce that the songlines – the dreaming tracks crisscrossing Australia, which are recorded in traditional songs, stories, dance and art – are the living narrative of our nation.”