Students from Catholic schools across Western Sydney attended the fourth annual Murama Youth Summit to gain a deeper appreciation of Australia’s unique Indigenous culture.
The inspirational event encouraged each of them to achieve their best no matter what setbacks might come their way.
Murama, which started with an “on-country’’ youth leadership camp, is about bringing Indigenous youth together to celebrate culture, connect with Elders, each other and be empowered to lead their schools and communities into activities to create a better cultural connection.
The students came from Xavier College Llandilo, Bede Polding College Windsor, Catherine McAuley Westmead, Emmaus College Kemps Creek, Loyola Mt Druitt, McCarthy College Emu Plains, Nagle College Blacktown, St Andrew’s College Marayong, St Agnes Catholic High School Rooty Hill, St Clare’s Catholic High Hassall Grove and Patrician Brothers’ College Blacktown.
The Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta (CEDP) Jarara Indigenous Education Unit helped coordinate the students’ involvement, beginning their Murama journey with leadership development and cultural activities at YMCA Lodge, Sydney Olympic Park. CEDP students were then able to put their learning into practice by leading workshops on Indigenous art, dancing, boomerang throwing, weaving and artefacts, with visiting primary schools at the Youth Eco Summit (YES) at Newington Armory, Sydney Olympic Park.
Event organiser Dr John Hunter said Murama is a resilience based cultural intervention program based on the strengths of Aboriginal culture which aims to heal their communities. The young leaders were introduced to Elders from all over Australia and invited to listen to their stories.
Dr Hunter said for Indigenous Australians, being an Elder is not just about age, it is in reference to someone who has wisdom and learns from their experiences in life.
Co-sponsors Baabayn had Elders speak to the youth during the leadership camp. They told stories of living on a mission and how trauma affects everyone differently. They also remembered joyful times like going to school and riding on horseback.
Students also heard from Olympic Boxer Brad Hore, who spoke about how he started boxing at the tender age of 10 years old. Despite winning 175 fights and seven Australian titles in his 15 year career, he also highlighted that he has experienced some low points too.
“I was 17 when I went to try for my first Olympics in 2000, I went to weigh in and needed to be 48kg, but I weighed in at 48.3kg, as I had had a sudden growth spurt, which meant I could not compete. This time in my life represented my first time of feeling really down and letting a lot of people down too,’’ Mr Hore said.
However, with the right support and a determination to get right back up again, he went on to compete at the 2004 Olympics in Athens as Australia’s 23rd Indigenous Olympian.
CEDP’s Jarara Indigenous Education Unit Specialist Teacher Student Services Julie Waddell said this year’s event was hugely successful with 43 leadership students who were very passionate about the program. “The feedback we have received is that they felt a greater connection to their culture and are inspired to continue on their personal journeys,’’ Julie said.
“The students gained confidence, leadership, resilience, initiative, creativity, and teamwork. They developed a deeper understanding and knowledge of our cultural heritage. The students also demonstrated greater depth of understanding regarding the stories shared by the Elders,’’ Julie said.
Xavier College student leaders Paige Manning and Huntley Jones had both attended Murama before and felt a lot more confident in getting involved with all the activities this time around.
“I also felt I had a better understanding of my own Indigenous culture and I was able to share my connection with other students new to the summit,’’ Paige said.
“I noticed all the primary school students were really engaged in the workshops this year and keen to hear the stories behind the activities,’’ Huntly said.
This year, nine CEDP primary schools got the opportunity to attend the two day Eco Youth Summit at the Armory. Those schools were Holy Family Primary Emerton, Holy Family Primary Luddenham, St Joseph’s Primary Kingswood, Our Lady of the Angels Primary Rouse Hill, Our Lady of the Way Primary Emu Plains, Our Lady of the Nativity Primary Lawson, Trinity Catholic Primary Kemps Creek, St Patrick’s Blacktown and St Luke’s Catholic College Marsden Park.
“We also had a record number of CEDP staff in attendance to support our team and students from across all Student Services Teams and high schools,’’ Julie said.
With thank to Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta.