More than a word – Reconciliation takes action
Loreto schools marked National Reconciliation Week (NRW) in varied ways as part of our justice commitment to working for the rights of First Nations peoples. First Nations students and communities have played a key role in some of our school celebrations as we seek to listen, learn and walk alongside them on the journey toward Reconciliation. This year, our schools recognised this important week in their own unique ways.
Students from Loreto Kirribilli took part in a walk across Sydney Harbour Bridge on May 27 to commemorate the original Bridge Walk for Reconciliation in 2000. This walk of more than 250,000 people sparked much of the modern action for Reconciliation. Kirribilli students also created a sea of hands for Reconciliation which were displayed next to Mary Ward’s sculpture in the school grounds.
This year’s theme for National Reconciliation Week, “More than a word – Reconciliation takes action”, was evident in celebrations at John XXIII College in Perth. Their recent Year 8 Retreat focused on Healthy Relationships with a particular lens on Human Dignity through the experiences of the Stolen Generations. Students reflected on the mistreatment of Indigenous people and how all called to build healthier relationships within Australia. Yorta Yorta man, Scott Darlow, worked with the students leading them in powerful and practical responses. At the College, a series of floor decals placed around the school drew attention, in a physical way, to the themes of Reconciliation Week for staff, students and visitors.
At Loreto Toorak, Reconciliation Week went mostly online due to lockdown 4.0 in Victoria. Junior school students participated in a moving Reconciliation Assembly to commence the week. Year 12 student leaders posted daily messages for fellow students and staff members, recognising different days throughout the week. A highlight for AFL fans was the annual Sir Doug Nicholls Indigenous Round. The beautiful jumpers worn by teams throughout this round are designed by First Nations artists, each with a particular theme and story. The students enjoyed reading about each design, choosing their favourites and gearing up to watch the key Dreamtime game between Richmond and Essendon from home.
To launch NRW at Loreto Normanhurst, the whole school gathered for a session full of felicity, learning and rhythm! Cultural tutors from the Torres Strait Islands, Harlisha and Seli, shared stories and guided students and staff in dance and song. This was an extraordinary start to a week full of activities focused on the movement towards greater understanding and the sharing of stories that underpin true reconciliation. The Indigenous Garden, a gift from the Class of 2020, was a key gathering place for the week.
At Loreto College Marryatville, the Boarding House and their First Nations students led several celebrations during the week, including a Reconciliation Breakfast and sharing a map acknowledging the country and traditional owners of the lands from which boarding students come. Additionally, Boarders who were part of the Reconciliation Action Plan group attended the inspiring Lowitja O’Donoghue Oration at Adelaide University.
At Loreto Coorparoo, NRW began with an assembly, focused on the significant dates establishing the week and a prayer shared by all students and staff. Lunchtime activities combined playing games with an Indigenous history and learning about their purpose. To celebrate the crossover with World Environment Day, a beautiful banner featuring an ancient tree decorated with handprints in the colours of red, yellow, and black demonstrated the care and custodianship of the land so central to traditional owners.
During National Reconciliation Week, students at Loreto Nedlands enjoyed reading books written by Ros Moriarty and illustrated by Balarinji, Australia’s leading Indigenous design studio. Students also learned Indigenous words, phrases, and the meaning behind specific Indigenous symbols. Students expressed these learnings in a number of creative ways. Pre Kindy children also painted their own bush snakes to hang in their classroom.
Loreto College Ballarat extended its celebrations of NRW beyond the set dates to continue its strong focus on reconciliation post lockdown. A liturgy combining student recorded music, and historical images will take place online. Classes plan to view a TED talk featuring Sheila Humphries, who shares her story as part of the Stolen Generation and consider its message by reflecting on “why Reconciliation is everybody’s business”, a question which features in the School’s RAP vision statement. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island students at Ballarat also created an artwork depicting the theme for NRW. All school community members will be asked what their intended action is to work towards true Reconciliation. These will be represented as footsteps on this banner positioned in the centre of the school community.
Two of our core Loreto values are truth and freedom. Reconciliation Week reminds us that as a Mary Ward family, we must not only seek and speak the truth regarding the inequalities and systemic racism still faced by First Nations people but speak up, using our voice and actions to achieve a just, equitable and reconciled Australia. Our schools are committed to this work and to the formation and education of young people who will forge this path for the future.