The thriving community of St Agnes Catholic High School gathered at the school’s state-of-the-art new Alverna Performance Space to celebrate Harmony Day this week.
The event was also an opportunity to mark Closing the Gap Day, highlighting the need for greater national action on equity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Principal Lisa-Maree Browning is inspired by the way that her students value inclusiveness. She feels that they will go on to be leaders in their communities, maintaining these values and recognising strength in diversity.
“It means so much to experience this celebration of the many cultures that make up the St Agnes community,” Lisa-Maree said. “I’m really proud of how our students have been able to come together to celebrate their heritage and our diversity.”
The moving event began with an Acknowledgement of Country from Jarara Indigenous Education Unit’s Josh Sly and led by students including Junior Aboriginal Executive Consultative Group President Alkira Field.
Junior AECG is the latest addition to the suite of programs that provide a strong focus on Aboriginal education at the school.
The school will soon sign up to the AECG Pemulwuy Group’s Reconciliation Action Plan and has already enjoyed a visit from their President Aunty Kerry Burns (Narang Irribin).
The group is already thriving at St Agnes, with student Alkira Field recently elected President of the Junior AECG Pemulwuy Group.
“We need to continue to raise national awareness of the gaps that exist for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in education and health,” said Lisa-Maree. “It’s only by ensuring that our young people are brought up with the skills and courage to advocate for change and to make a difference that we will continue to grow as a society.”
Student leaders Semhar Beyene and Ayak Tong were just as articulate in reflecting on the significance of Harmony Day for their community with a strong focus on respect, the dignity and connectedness of all people.
“We should see Harmony Day as an opportunity to celebrate how far we have come and how far we have to go,” said Semhar. “All cultures, religions and races should be valued and accepted not just today but every day.”
They went on to quote African American Civil Rights Movement hero Rosa Parks: “It takes more than one person to bring about peace – it takes all of us.”
This was followed by high energy performances from students wearing beautiful national costumes including Samoan, Tongan, Indian, Filipino, and Arabic dancing. There was also a high-energy performance from African students featuring drumming, Filipino students Tinikling dancing and a fierce Haka that will see the same students compete in the upcoming Haka Warrior competition. The audience joyfully shared their appreciation for the performance and sharing of culture.
The celebration also saw the school festooned in an incredible orange balloon feature put together by Andro Esho, a very talented Year 11 student. The community wore cultural attire and the colour orange symbolising community prevailed, from students in saris to one teacher sporting a kilt and sporran.
The students also held COVID-19 safe food stalls, selling cultural cuisine to support the activities of the SRC.
With thanks to St Agnes Catholic High School staff and Media students for the powerful images of the celebrations.
With thanks to Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta.