01 June, 2023 Community

National Reconciliation Week: Be a Voice for Generations

This week during National Reconciliation Week (NRW), our School community have been learning and reflecting on what it means to have a more just, equitable and reconciled country for all.

NRW is held annually from 27 May to 3 June and is a time for all Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures, achievements and to understand how we can all contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia. The theme this year is Be a Voice for Generations and encourages all Australians to be a voice for reconciliation in our everyday lives – where we live, work and socialise.

“By marking National Reconciliation Week as a significant week on the school calendar, we invite members of our school community to consider their roles, both individually and collectively, in this process of coming together and truth-telling, and how we can be strong allies for our local Boonwurrung community as well as all First Nations Peoples across Australia,” said Ms Alex Mountford, Chair of the Reconciliation Action Working Group.

On Thursday 25 May to launch NRW, students Charlie (12B), Lulu (11B) and Eleanor (12H) accompanied by Dr Luke Mandouit, attended the Port Phillip Citizens for Reconciliation lunch. St Michael’s was one of two schools that attended the lunch and the students enjoyed learning about reconciliation, while building connections with local community groups. A particular highlight was Year 12 student Charlie reading a poem alongside Dennis Fisher, the author of the poem and Indigenous Co-Chair of the Port Phillip Citizens for Reconciliation group.

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    Year 2 students, Lucinda (2M), Jude (2M), Ben (2P) and Nina (2P)
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    Year 4 students Jacinta (4F) and Tom (4F)

The School commemorated National Sorry Day on 26 May, a day that marks the anniversary of the tabling in Federal Parliament of the Bring Them Home Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families. During House assemblies, the RAP committee delivered a presentation contextualising National Sorry Day and explaining its significance. As part of this presentation, students learned, heard stories and had an opportunity to reflect and begin to empathise with the experiences of the Stolen Generations.

On Wednesday 31 May, all students from Kindergarten to Year 12 gathered on the School oval where Mr Gerard Houlihan, Head of the School spoke about our Reconciliation Action Plan and how it fosters respect, relationships and opportunities for education. Mr Houlihan also reflected on his personal journey to becoming more informed about local Aboriginal communities, including where he grew up in southwestern Victoria on Gunditjmara land. Following this, some of our Year 2 students, Nina (2P), Ben (2P), Lucinda (2M) and Jude (2M) talked about Boonwurrung culture and language, sharing some of the words they have learned. Year 4 students Tom (4F) and Jacinta (4F) presented their learnings about colonisation and read a book entitled The Rabbits by John Marsden and Shaun Tan. Finally, Year 7 students Eve (7B) and Lili (7S) spoke about contemporary artist Badger Bates and why they find his works inspiring.

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    Mr Gerard Houlihan addressed the students and staff
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    Father Kenyon McKie

In the Junior School, our students have been exploring what it means to achieve reconciliation at the Junior School RAP Club. Students recently wrote letters to various stakeholders at the School requesting to display the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags at the main entry points to the School.

“We think it’s important to acknowledge the land that the school is on, Boonwurrung Country, and it also lets our school community and visitors know that everyone is welcome. It is important to let everyone know that we are all equal and that we support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,” Junior School RAP Club.

In 2021, St Michael’s formally launched its first Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) committing to 24 actions which are underpinned by Narragunnawali’s three categories: Relationships, Respect and Opportunities. In December 2022, the second iteration of the RAP was approved by Reconciliation Australia and includes 28 new targets. See our full Reconciliation Action Plan here.

Thank you to the staff and students who have made Reconciliation Week visible at St Michael’s, giving the School community a chance to reflect and works towards achieving reconciliation.