Last year, when the National Reconciliation Council announced the theme for its 2020 National Reconciliation Week it had no idea that what was chosen would resonate with such new layers of meaning. They chose “In this together” as a poignant message to characterise a shift in relationship with Australia’s First Nation peoples.
Of course, this theme has been adopted by politicians, corporations and individual across a range of media platforms to characterise our shared fight against the pandemic.
While the theme was apt – in a way not originally envisioned – it should still resonate with us powerfully as a path forwards towards meaningful reconciliation. At its core, it reinforces that we all benefit from the vision of a reconciled Australia.
At King David we are well on our path towards developing our Reconciliation Action Plan. This is a formal framework which incorporates an authentic approach to develop our knowledge, understanding and appreciation of Australia’s First Nations’ heritage across many aspects of school life.
This begins in the Early Learning Centre where a practice of acknowledgment of country is implemented in age-appropriate language from the very beginning of a student’s King David education. It is built into the study of First Nations Dreamtime narratives that occur across the Junior School and is built into our Outdoor Education Program throughout the School. We work closely with an Indigenous group to ensure that meaningful contextual learning opportunities are afforded for students to broaden their understanding.
Each year we mark National Reconciliation Week as a way to deepen our students’ sense of connection to Australia’s unique indigenous heritage. While this year we cannot celebrate the occasion with assemblies, I believe that if you visit our Reconciliation page on the myKDS Portal ( https://my.kds.vic.edu.au/homepage/7199/) you will recognise a mature and authentic acknowledgment of what it means to be “In this together”.
At its heart, it is about forging connections with First Nations Australians as a means of demystifying the other, and creating respectful opportunities to learn together. This is meaningfully apparent in the KDS student interviews featured on the page. A particularly relevant interview sees two of our VCE students in a far-ranging conversation with an indigenous VCE student from Alice Springs who studies at Geelong Grammar. While the topics of conversation are fascinating – ranging from identity, what it means to be Australian and hot political topics such as commemorating Australia Day – perhaps the most powerful message is in the manner of conversation. Hearing these three students converse naturally, instantly developing rapport and making connection is why the heart of reconciliation involves a coming together of people.
Reconciliation Week is a time to celebrate our unique cultural and historic heritage – we are so fortunate to be able to learn about the extraordinary connection with land, way of life and vibrant cultural practices that characterise Australia’s First Nations.
Sadly, Reconciliation Week is also a time to acknowledge past injustices and the unacceptable status quo that sees First Nations Australians suffering far worse health, education, employment and incarceration outcomes than other Australians.
I believe that a shared commitment to addressing this situation and working together for a better future can be achieved when we accept that we are indeed in this together and I am very proud that The King David School is so committed to this journey.