Being a reconciliation partner
This year’s National Reconciliation Week theme is ‘Be a Voice for Generations’. Across the school we have been immersed in meaningful activities that celebrate First Nations’ culture, history and contribution and also recognise the devastation that has resulted from dispossession and the efforts to close the gap that exists in so many aspects of life for First Nations Australians.
A beautiful example of student learning this week came from our Year 5 student leaders’ First Nations Va’ad (committee) who created a board game called Djeembana which means gathering in First Nations (Boon Wurrung) language. The game explores the different nations that exist within Victoria and students learn about distinctive cultural practices relevant to each nation. It is a fun way for students to understand the unique connection to land and culture.
Another important initiative was our Reconciliation Assembly designed and led by our Year 10 Derech (Pathway) participants. The students hosted First Nations speaker Jethro Calma-Holt who is the Indigenous Liaison Lead at the Carlton Football Club. Jethro spoke of his First Nations identity and shared photos of his family while he illustrated their deep connection and desire to preserve and pass on their cultural heritage.
Our staff were also deeply engaged in unique professional learning sessions which related to reconciliation. The staff chose from two sessions – a truth telling workshop conducted by Mark Jones who is a sovereign Karajarri Yawuru man; and a survey of the legal and political quest for justice and recognition for First Nations People over the decades by Professor Melissa Castan, Director of the Monash University Castan Centre for Human Rights Law.
All of these learning opportunities were moving and educational and equipped students and staff with a profound understanding of the value in seeking out First Nations People’s voices in order to meaningfully partner in reconciliation.
I reflect that this holistic education is vastly different to the one offered to my generation who were generally only exposed to a very superficial education about First Nations People and issues. I recall that in my first weeks of study at university I was overcome by a sense of frustration and betrayal as I was exposed for the first time to the falsity of the claims of Terra Nullius and how this had been used to attempt to disconnect First Nations Australians from their custodianship of the land. The relatively contemporaneous Mabo case brought this to the forefront of consciousness but I was disappointed that throughout all my schooling I had not learnt about this. It was with a palpable sense of shame that I realised that so much of my knowledge about First Nations Australia was surface and lacking in the authenticity provided by learning from and with First Nations People.
In the 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart, 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander delegates called upon all Australians to partner with them in meaningful reconciliation.
The statement includes this invitation – “We leave base camp and start our trek across this vast country. We invite you to walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future.”
I am so proud that The King David School’s deep commitment to reconciliation makes us partners in this mission.