Diocese of Parramatta representatives gathered last week for a beautiful Reconciliation Week event at the Bethany Centre in Parramatta. Surrounded by Australian wildflower arrangements, Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, blessed four meeting rooms named in the local Dharug language, as well as a stunning artwork by award-winning Aboriginal educator and artist Josh Sly.
The artwork: “Reconciliation in action: Hand in hand”, commissioned by Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta (CEDP) for its first Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), will be proudly displayed in the foyer of the Church’s headquarters in Western Sydney as a reminder of the Church’s commitment to justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
“This artwork highlights our commitment to the ongoing journey of Reconciliation,” Bishop Vincent said. “The names of these meeting rooms recall the spirit and culture of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sisters and brothers. They will be a sign that the Church is a reconciling community.”
Josh Sly, a proud Biripi, Worimi and Wiradjuri Guri (man), works with students and school communities through CEDP’s Jarara Indigenous Education Unit based at Mount Druitt. His outstanding work and leadership was recognised at the 2019 Service to Community Awards.
Josh said his artwork captures the essence of CEDP’s commitment to reconciliation.
“Reconciliation is a continued relationship, commitment and journey,” Josh said. “For this artwork, the three meeting places are symbolic of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community on one side, CEDP on the other, and in the middle the coming together of all people for true reconciliation.”
CEDP Executive Director Greg Whitby delivered a powerful reflection on the significance of recent Government commitment to the implementation of the Uluru Statement of the Heart. Greg also celebrated the work of the Jarara Indigenous Education Unit which leads much of CEDP’s support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and their families. This included heartfelt thanks to Jarara team member and colleague Josh for his artwork.
“This artwork is a sign of our shared responsibility in the Diocese of Parramatta to walk hand in hand on our journey together toward reconciliation,” Greg said. “I am so proud to see it displayed in this space for years to come.”
Bishop Vincent wore a beautiful stole featuring Aboriginal artwork in the soft colours of the Australian bush. The rooms are named Dharug (people), Mittigar (friend), Nura (country) and Wiyanga (mother). Bishop Vincent sprinkled each of the meeting rooms with Holy Water, resulting in members of the Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta Mission team who were meeting in the Nura room receiving an unexpected blessing too!
Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta (CEDP) launched its first Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) in April. With 80 schools across Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains, this move will enhance the support that CEDP schools provide to the community. Read the plan here. CEDP’s Jarara Indigenous Education Unit was established approximately 20 years ago and is the only dedicated Aboriginal Education team within a Catholic school system in NSW.
About the artwork “Reconciliation in action – Hand in hand” by Josh Sly
This artwork highlights the CEDP commitment to walk alongside Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples for reconciliation. Within this artwork, I wanted to capture the essence of the commitment to reconciliation. Reconciliation is more than just a word and document, it is a continued relationship, commitment and journey.
In the middle of the artwork, there are three circles overlapping with U shape symbols around them, this is a traditional symbol representing a campsite, meeting place or sacred site. For this artwork, the three meeting places are symbolic of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community on one side, CEDP on the other and in the middle the coming together of all people for true reconciliation. The three circles also have another layer of meaning, representing important themes and teaching within Aboriginal culture which come in threes, man/woman/child, past/present/future, land/water/sky, mind/body/spirit. The last significance of the circle is that everyone is welcomed, everyone has a place and everyone is treated equally.
The handprints represent teamwork, working hand in hand together, traditionally when handprints were outlined on the rock or cave wall it was about identity, obligation and responsibility. The handprints also remind us of the importance of story and individuality as no one’s handprints are the same.
The blue surrounding circle symbolises the importance of water. Waterways are the veins of country and the provider of life. Water also contains cleansing and healing properties. The earthy tones within the background are the beautiful tones of country, reminding us that country is our mother and we all have an obligation to care for country and everything that makes up country. The gum leaves pay respect to the knowledge of country, representing bush medicine, bush tucker and traditional ceremonies.
The smaller concentric circles are representative of the schools and communities that are a part of CEDP. The footprints are a reminder to walk carefully on country in the footprints of our ancestors and also as a reminder of the journey and commitment of walking together in the hope of true reconciliation.
Josh Sly – Proud Biripi, Worimi & Wiradjuri Guri (Man)
With thanks to Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta.