As night gathered over Parramatta Park on 19 May 2021, Xavier College Llandilo School Captains Paige Manning and Huntley Jones stood together to greet guests at a civic reception to celebrate 200 years of Catholic education in Australia.
Sharing a traditional Darug greeting, “Warimi Mitigar,” the strong presence of the young leaders made for a very moving celebration.
Huntley, a proud Murray descendant of the Yuwaalaraay people referenced the Uluru Statement from the Heart in reflecting on the significance of Catholic education.
“I am proud to say here tonight, that Catholic education within the Diocese of Parramatta has given me the opportunity to ‘walk in two worlds’,” Paige, a proud Wiradjuri and Wailwan woman stated, drawing on the powerful language of the Uluru Statement.
Held at historic Old Government House, the event marked 200 years since a small Catholic school was established in Hunter Street Parramatta in 1820.
Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, and Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta Executive Director Greg Whitby both shared their reflections on the milestone for Australian Catholic schools, with a focus on the mission of Catholic education.
The program for the evening featured a Welcome to Country and Smoking Ceremony from Darug Elder Aunty Julie Webb. Students including Darug Traditional Owners Shanaya Donovan (Catherine McAuley, Westmead) and Jumikah Donovan (CathWest Innovation College) shared culture as members of the Jannawi Dance Clan. Guests also enjoyed entertainment provided by student-led string and Jazz Ensembles.
Guests included members of the Diocese of Parramatta Curia, Aboriginal Elders, community representatives, members of Religious congregations, Diocesan, State and National Catholic Education Leaders as well as those from universities, business representatives, the Parent Representative Council and school and system staff.
Elected representatives in attendance included The Hon Dr Geoff Lee MP, State Member for Parramatta; The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP, Federal Member for Sydney; City of Parramatta Lord Mayor Councillor Bob Dwyer and Lady Mayoress Mrs Jenny Dwyer; Kevin Connolly MP, State Member for Riverstone; Julia Finn MP, State Member for Granville and Dr Hugh McDermott, State Member for Prospect.
The memorable evening provided an opportunity to share story, culture and particularly, student leadership. As Executive Director Greg Whitby told the crowd, “The leadership of young people gives us so much faith in the future.”
With thanks to Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta.