Aboriginal leaders headline Catholic Education Conference in Leura

By Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta, 19 September 2022
Image: Supplied


2021 Senior Australian of the Year Aunty Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr Baumann and Minister for Indigenous Australians Hon Linda Burney MP will headline the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Education NSW State Conference in October.

Proudly hosted by Catholic Schools NSW together with Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta, the event will be focused on Closing the Gap in educational outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people.

With more than 500 delegates expected to attend, the state-wide conference to be held from 11-13 October will be hosted in the world heritage-listed Blue Mountains and will bring together education and community practitioners to share unique perspectives on building systems and practices that empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families to thrive.

Sharon Cooke, a proud woman of the Ngemba people, is the State Manager Policy and Programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education at Catholic Schools NSW. Sharon said the conference is about strengthening relationships and creating opportunities for young people to thrive.

“The Elders of the Gundungurra People and the Elders of the Darug people will welcome us to this beautiful and ancient place. They will immerse us in their stories,” said Sharon. “We will walk together to learn and to build on relationships that will strengthen our children to enable them to thrive to become the leaders of tomorrow.”

Julie Waddell, a proud woman of Kamilaroi descent who leads the Jarara Aboriginal Education Centre at Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta said the conference is the next stage in leading the way to embedding authentic cultural understanding.

“It will be the catalyst to empower our youth to lead their schools and communities towards deeper cultural understanding and appreciation,” said Julie. “Providing real, authentic, supported pathways for our students is pivotal to our work. They are our future and seeing others like themselves gives tangible evidence that they can aspire to be whatever they desire.”

Catholic schools educate around one in five students in NSW, including around 9500 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people. A recent Catholic Schools NSW report on Aboriginal Education Outcomes in Catholic Schools highlighted that there is more work to be done to close the gap, including through working with families and communities. Key findings of this report included a significant increase in the proportion of students identifying as Aboriginal in NSW Catholic schools which has more than doubled from 1.7% in 2008 to 3.6% in 2021.

There are 594 Catholic schools across NSW, including the 80 great local schools led by Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta across Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains. This conference will welcome Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal participants from across NSW and is an important opportunity to play an active role in strengthening networks and reconciliation.

Guest presenters:

Aunty Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr Baumann

2021 Senior Australian of the Year Aunty Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr Baumann. Image: Supplied.

Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr Baumann, 2021 Senior Australian of the year, is a renowned Aboriginal Artist and Educator who is dedicated to creating bright and fulfilling futures for Aboriginal children and youth. She was the first fully qualified Aboriginal teacher in the Northern Territory and is the founder of the Miriam-Rose Foundation. Miriam-Rose speaks five local languages along with English and is responsible for establishing the highly successful Merrepen Arts centre in Nauiyu. In 1998, Miriam-Rose was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia, for her services to Aboriginal education and art, and her services to the Nauiyu community.

Hon Linda Burney MP, Minister for Indigenous Australians 

Federal Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney MP. Image: Supplied

As a proud member of the Wiradjuri nation, Linda was the first Aboriginal person to be elected to the NSW Parliament and the first Aboriginal woman to serve in the House of Representatives.

Linda was elected federal member for Barton in 2016, following a 14-year career in the NSW Parliament as Member for Canterbury. During her state political career, she served as Minister in a number of senior portfolios including as Minister for Community Services and later as Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Linda has held senior positions in the non-government sector serving on a number of Boards including the SBS, the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board, and the NSW Board of Studies.

Isaiah Dawe, Founder and CEO of ID. Know Yourself

Founder and CEO of ID. Know Yourself Isaiah Dawe. Image: Supplied

Isaiah was a finalist in the 2019 NSW/ACT Channel 7 Young Achiever Awards and winner of the 2017 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander TAFE NSW student of the year. He was also the first Indigenous person to be awarded TAFE NSW student graduate of the year. Isaiah is the Founder and CEO of ID. Know Yourself, an Aboriginal-led Not for Profit mentoring organisation focused on improving the outcomes for their kids in Culture, Education, Life Skills and Employment. He was appointed as a Board Director on the board of TAFE NSW as well as Marist 180 Youth Care and was a 2022 nominee for NSW Young Australian of the Year. He has also recently been named Sydney’s Inner Wests 30 most influential people under 30 in 2022.


For the conference program and to register, please visit https://www.transformingwiththespirit2022.com.au/registration/

With thanks to Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta.

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