From the Principal
Reconciliation Week, 2019
Tomorrow at our Whole School Assembly, we will focus on Reconciliation Week. This year’s theme is, “Grounded in truth, walk together with courage”. According to the organisation, Reconciliation Australia, Australians from all backgrounds are invited to contribute to their “national movement towards a unified future”.
The dates for National Reconciliation Week remain the same each year; May 27 to June 3. These dates commemorate two significant milestones in the reconciliation journey— the successful 1967 referendum, and the High Court Mabo decision respectively. Of course, they are significant moments in Australian history as in 1967 Australians voted overwhelmingly to amend the constitution to include Aboriginal people in the census and allow the Commonwealth to create laws for them, and the Mabo decision recognised indigenous people’s unique connection to the land.
At its heart, reconciliation is about strengthening relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and non-Indigenous peoples, for the benefit of all Australians. It has been a long and complex process for Australia, and it can seem that we do not make seismic progress year to year. Of course, there are victories along the way and progress is made, albeit apparently difficult and slow.
At Cathedral we have been keen over the past few years to see how we can help educate our young people for a 2019 Australia – one that acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet each day and one that acknowledges a challenging history since European settlement.
As part of the ASC, we are one of fourteen schools about to launch a combined Reconciliation Action Plan, or RAP. After a couple of years of preparation in committees and consultation, we will shortly step into the first phase – the Reflect RAP – of an enduring plan.
A Reflect RAP clearly sets out the steps needed to prepare an organisation for reconciliation initiatives in successive RAPs. Committing to a Reflect RAP allows us to spend time scoping and developing relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stakeholders, deciding on our vision for reconciliation and exploring our sphere of influence, before committing to specific actions or initiatives.
We do a lot across all of our schools to try and educate our young people about the past, the present and a vision of the future. As a small example here at Cathedral, in the past few weeks we have enjoyed visits from Chris Thorne and Alwyn Doolan. Chris is a local Aboriginal Community Support Worker who spoke with our senior students about the realities of life for indigenous people in our community. He shared his personal story, too, introducing them to a vivid view of disadvantage in our society. Alwyn spoke with a number of our students when he visited Wangaratta as part of his 8,500km walk across Australia. He has just arrived in Canberra and is seeking a meeting with the Prime Minister to discuss matters of indigenous disadvantage. We look forward to welcoming Chris back to the school soon and we are investigating how we can support Alwyn and include some student representation as well. Indeed, we are at the start of a long relationship with both of them; relationships that will serve to assist our school community improve relations across the country.
While every week can be a week in which reconciliation is undertaken, we welcome the focus that this week brings across the country.
Mr Adrian Farrer