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, we currently have 7 Indigenous boys enrolled in the College, across Years 7-12, with one student, Allen Christensen holding a senior student leadership position of House Captain, a Year 12 Renewal is conducted each year 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.
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 have agreed to meet 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 possibility of exchange programs.
During the Term Three holidays last year 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 where 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”.
There will be an opportunity for another group of students to experience what these boys have experienced in July this year.
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 students boarding at the College. The first of these exchanges will begin during term 2 this year involving a group of SJC students from Year 9 and two staff members. A visit to SJC from St Brendan’s will then be arranged for the near future. We look forward to hearing of the experiences of these boys.
It is envisaged both of 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.
On August 6 and 7 of this year the College has 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, will provide an opportunity for our staff and students to walk briefly in the shoes of Indigenous Australians and allow 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