St Joseph’s College - Geelong

In 2007 St Joseph’s College participated in the Edmund Rice Education Australia (EREA) trial of the School Renewal Process for Christian Brother’s schools. Out of this process came a number of recommendations, one being the issue of Indigenous enrolment and perspectives in the curriculum.

Over the years, the College has been active in promoting and embedding Indigenous perspectives into the curriculum. The Aboriginal flag has prominently flown in the College for a number of years, every student assembly and school function is recognised at the opening with an acknowledgment of the Wathaurong people, there is a Wathaurong welcoming poster in each room in the school, we currently have 13 Indigenous boys enrolled in the College, across Years 7-12, with two year 12 students, holding senior student leadership positions of House Captains, a Year 12 Renewal has been conducted for a number of years for a group students to Gariwerd (Grampians) visiting significant Indigenous sites, and a reconciliation statement is displayed within the College and within the student diary. In May 2010 20 Year 12 students and 2 staff travelled to Lake Mungo, accompanied by staff member Vicki Clarke from the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry. This was an extraordinary experience for all.

A general feeling does exist within the school community that more can and needs to be done to embed further Indigenous perspectives. With this in mind and the recommendations from the EREA report we began the process of exploring other initiatives to bring to the forefront Indigenous perspectives. A group of staff meet regularly as a team to coordinate these initiatives and keep the momentum going. A number of initiatives have been put in place and undertaken to expose and challenge the views of our students. One such initiative is a visit to Aboriginal communities and the establishment of exchange programs.

During the Term Three holidays 2008 a group of students and former staff member Tony Paatsch joined students and staff from St Joseph’s College Pascoe Vale to embark on an adventure that would change their lives forever. They travelled to the heat and humidity of Northern Territory and the Aboriginal community, Nauiyu Nambiyu were they stayed for a week listening to elders talk of the impact of European settlement and the heart ache and turmoil they endured by being members of the stolen generation. They had the privilege of travelling to the traditional country and birthplace of one of the elders where they were “baptised” into the “Marrithiyel” language group and spent the night under the stars at “Arnguch Kirim” (Devil Devil Country). The boys spent time talking with the elders about their religious beliefs, their connection with the land and spirituality. To quote one of the boys, Sam Beard, who wrote in our school magazine last year, “These events have helped shape us into a new and better informed people. Stereotypes have been broken down and new friendships formed as we have learnt about this wonderful culture that has graced Australia for over forty thousand years”. Students travelled to Daly River during 2010 and it is planned to offer the same opportunity to students this year. A similar opportunity has been extended to staff to travel during a school holiday period later this year and15 staff have eagerly signed up.

A connection has been made with St Brendan’s College, Yeppon, Queensland to establish an exchange program between the two schools. St Brendan’s has a significant Aboriginal population, with a number of the boarding. The first of these exchanges began in term 2 2009 involving a group of SJC students from Year 9 and two staff members, this has been followed up by visits to SJC from St Brendan’s. 2010 has seen the relationship strengthen with further exchanges.

An additional connection was made with St John’s College, Darwin in 2010 with the establishment of an exchange program. The students from St John’s spent 3 days at our College, visiting classes, running football clinics, surfing in the chill waters off Torquay and playing our Year 10 football team. It was a great experience for all involved

It is envisaged these programs and visits will be ongoing and will grow. Our challenge will be to use the experiences of these boys and those who attend in the future to educate others within our own community.

The College is not only a member of the Dare To Lead Coalition, but also an active participant in the ‘What Works’ program. This is federal funded program that helps schools plan and take action to improve educational outcomes of their Indigenous students. One of the many positive results of this program is that every Indigenous student has their own PLP (personal Learning Plan). This initiative will ensure that our Indigenous students have clear goals for their future, and that every measure is put in place to so they are supported and successful. These boys also meet on a fortnightly basis with the school’s Koori Education Worker, where they have the opportunity to discuss any issues that they may be having.

Each year St Joseph’s has marked Reconciliation Week with a number of activities. We run lunchtime activities which include the viewing of Indigenous films, appreciation of the stories and sounds of Indigenous music, Pastoral Care lessons based on this subject, liturgies, and a number of other activities. Last year St Joseph’s students and two teachers travelled to Federation Square and participated in The Long Walk to the MCG. This walk, led by Michael Long, is aimed at promoting awareness of Indigenous health issues. Staff and students have also attended a number of events such as an Indigenous Social Justice Day, Open The Doors Foundation event with Bruce Pascoe, and the National Launch of the Storyteller board game.

On August 6 and 7, 2009 the College devoted one of its professional development days to the engagement of Grant Sarra to present a series of workshops for staff and a group of students on the:
KEY THEME - Australian Society and Culture – Putting the Past into Future Perspective beyond 2006:
Healing: Beyond Fear, Beyond Denial and Beyond Blame – Coming together for our collective future prosperity, pride and dignity.

This interactive workshop, provided an opportunity for our staff and students to walk briefly in the shoes of Indigenous Australians and allowed for us to dramatically increase our appreciation, understanding and respect for Australian Indigenous people, increase our understanding and sensitivity towards problems and issues that continue to impact upon Indigenous Australians and increase our knowledge and understanding of the cultural and structural barriers that inhibit effective consultation and negotiation with Indigenous people and communities.

Robert Blackley
Director of Curriculum