Catherine McAuley Westmead embraces its Indigenous culture

By Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta, 13 July 2018
Painting as part of NAIDOC Week celebrations. Photo:


The Wandana Indigenous Education Team was welcomed into the learning community of Catherine McAuley Westmead to help students explore Indigenous culture.

Wandana is a community-based project that aims to foster respect for all through an Indigenous art project.

The team began their visit to the school with a smoking ceremony, which was led by Catherine McAuley’s own Indigenous students.

Students and staff then participated in talks, meditation and art activities on the theme of this year’s NAIDOC Week: ‘Because of Her, We Can!’

As a result of the Wandana’s team visit to the school, a contemporary Aboriginal painting was completed by all staff and students.

This powerful artwork has a rich symbolism for the Catherine McAuley community. Photo:

The painting captures the essence of the school community with red concentric circles, representing a meeting place for Darug people, in the centre, and white dots around the meeting place representing ancestors of the past.

It also features the Catholic cross which flows through the school community and inside the meeting place is a house which depicts the House of Mercy in Dublin, Ireland.

This meeting place also represents the school and the large ‘U’ shapes in different colours represent the Aboriginal elders of the local area.

The painting also features several coloured bands which show the seven school houses and running through the painting is the Parramatta River to represent the Burramattagal Aboriginal people.

It also has includes the Aboriginal coolamon, a woman’s wooden bowl of many purposes which pays homage to Aboriginal woman.

The many colourful dots radiating through the school house area in the painting are the students, teachers and families of the school with the handprint of the school principal representing the love and guidance of the principal over the school community.

The school gathered to celebrate NAIDOC Week. Photo:

Students said that they found that the Wandana project helped them to better understand and appreciate Aboriginal culture and learn about the symbolism found in their art.

“The Wandana Project allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of Aboriginal culture as I was granted the opportunity to explore various artefacts, learn about different signs and symbols and participate in meditation to help enrich my knowledge,” Year 11 student Chantelle Cortez Maglalang said.

“I liked how the school artwork connected us as a community, with the dots representing all the members within our school community,” said Year 12 student Aiswaryalakshmi Rajeev.

The painting was presented to the school community at a special assembly and now hangs proudly at the school.

With thanks to Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta.


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