As a Catholic education system our work is driven and inspired by the words of Jesus Christ and by the mission of the Catholic Church. Schools serve all those who attend their Catholic educational communities and contribute to their achievement of excellence and equity in schooling. Schools also reach out with love and compassion to all those in need and build communities based upon gospel values of forgiveness and reconciliation. As Catholics we are called to seek reconciliation with God, each other, our world and our environment. As Catholic Australians we are called in a particular way to continue the work of reconciliation with Indigenous Australians.
The work of reconciliation requires open hearts and ears that listen to the Indigenous story of this country. Reconciliation is a slow but necessary process and the end result is the building of a cohesive community where disadvantage has been removed.
There is no escaping the fact that at this point of time in our history, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are among the most disadvantaged groups in Australia today. The removal of disadvantage commences with education and understanding, and it is here that schools play a vital role. The future for all Australians has to be a shared one, based upon principles of the common good and the dignity of all human beings.
Education for both non-Indigenous and Indigenous people about Indigenous history and culture is a key element to reconciliation. Schools can be agents of profound change in this country by raising awareness in a sensitive manner to issues of reconciliation in ways that creates understanding and not confusion or conflict, and in doing so, break down the stereotypical view of Indigenous Australians. The Catholic Education Office over the years has developed resources to assist with the implementation of Indigenous perspectives in schools. In 2001 the Archdiocese of Melbourne brought together more than 13,000 Catholic primary and secondary school students for Reconciliation Gayip. Those present witnessed the unveiling of the Aboriginal story of Melbourne through songs and dance. The CEOM’s Yarra Healing website also has reconciliation as its’ focus.
I encourage all schools in the Archdiocese to continue their work in building reconciliation in our community.