“Being an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australian means to succeed, to achieve. To have big dreams and high hopes.” Malcolm Turnbull, 2017
This year is significant for our Indigenous community. It marks the anniversary of two important events on Australia’s path to reconciliation. In May 1967, 50 years ago, a referendum saw 90 per cent of Australians vote to give the Commonwealth the power to legislate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and to recognise them in the national census. Secondly, in June 1992, 25 years ago, the High Court of Australia’s landmark Mabo decision legally recognised that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have a special relationship to the land — a relationship that existed prior to colonisation and still exists today.
Despite these great steps forward, progress for our Indigenous people has been slow. It is with sadness that I read that only one of the seven targets of the ‘Close the Gap’ campaign is succeeding. Our agencies and communities are still struggling to reach the target to halve the gap for Indigenous children in reading, writing and numeracy. It is, however, encouraging that the effort to halve the gap in Year 12 attainment by 2020 is on track. It is even more rewarding that as a school, we are playing our role in achieving that result, particularly through our partnerships with both the Go Foundation and The Australian Indigenous Education Foundation (AIEF).
Giving Indigenous students the opportunity to attend an independent school is admirable and should be pursued, but this on its own will not mean success. It takes the development of a respectful and inclusive community, and openings to enhance learning through experiences outside of school. As Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said this year, we must give Indigenous students the opportunity to have “big dreams and high hopes”.
St Catherine’s recognises the importance of developing the holistic student and the benefits of learning outside of the classroom. It is important for our Indigenous students to be given the opportunity to meet inspirational mentors and to experience a world beyond their own homes and school. For example, in May, our Indigenous students were able to travel to Canberra to gain hands-on experience and information about career pathways in the Australian Government. Those selected met other Indigenous students from around Australia, inspirational Indigenous leaders such as Senator Nigel Scullion, Pat Dodson and Malarndirri McCarthy, and were given an insight into life at the ADF and in the public service.
Such opportunities inspire and motivate students to reach their potential and envision how they can make a difference within their own communities and the country. When I hear how inspired students are after these events, I am drawn to reflect on the significant role we have as a school community to ensure that we continue to build our relationships with our Indigenous families and play our part in closing the gap.
Ms Robyn Blomfield Learning Enrichment teacher / Indigenous Coordinator M Ed (Inclusive Education)
A private Anglican day and boarding school for girls, Kindergarten to Year 12. Founded in 1856,
in the eastern suburbs of Sydney.
26 Albion Street Waverley
NSW 2024 Australia
Telephone +61 2 8305 6200