Members from the Catholic community recently gathered at CathWest Innovation College in Mount Druitt for a Yarn Up in the lead up to Reconciliation Week. A chance to chat, share ideas and feedback, the event was a great opportunity to share cultural knowledge, build relationships and support reconciliation.
A proud tradition in the Aboriginal community, a Yarn Up is defined as the exchange of stories and knowledge in order to initiate meaningful conversations and build respectful relationships.
Participants included Diocese of Parramatta Bishop Vincent Long, Aboriginal Elders, Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta Executive Director Greg Whitby and senior leaders including Principals, students and their families.
This was a key moment for truth-telling and listening to others. Topics of discussion included increasing the presence of Elders in classroom education and the implementation of more learning in the curriculum about Aboriginal culture, identity and the Dreaming.
“This is an opportunity to come together, listen and engage in conversations,” said Julie Waddell, Coordinator at CEDP’s Jarara Indigenous Education Unit. “It’s about sitting together in this circle. In our culture, there’s no hierarchy. This is a circle of friendship, circle of connection, circle of listening”.
“I am proud to be part of this listening circle, sharing stories and recognising this interconnectedness and interdependence”, added Bishop Vincent Long.
Following on from CEDP’s Reconciliation Action Plan Launch, the organisation is committed to initiating practical steps towards reconciliation.
“I have a sense of pride in what’s already been achieved,” said Greg Whitby. “We’ve climbed mountains in understanding our First Nations people and understand that there’s a lot more to do”.
“It’s not our work, it’s everybody’s work,” said Julie. “Whether it’s the Jarara team, the Finance team or in our schools”.
Students were invited to share the existing work already happening in schools, with Catherine McAuley Westmead students speaking about the Strong Sisters Totem Project aimed at facilitating meaningful conversations around Indigenous culture and representation.
“The Strong Sisters Totem Project was initiated to protect the Eel, the totem of the local area on which our school sits”, a student explained.
Catholic schools across Western Sydney are collaborating on a Totem project as part of the preparation for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Education NSW State Conference. This includes choosing prominent visual areas to display their totems at school, with Trinity Catholic Primary School committing to the protection of the Kangaroo and Goanna, totems of the local Aboriginal community at Kemps Creek.
“This ongoing project with schools embeds Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives to create identity and build a sense of belonging for Indigenous culture”, said Ted Langford from Jarara.
“There has been a widespread acceptance across schools to learn more and engage with culture”.
“It doesn’t matter what nation you come from, we come together as a team,” added Aboriginal Elder Aunty Jenny on the work of Jarara, the only dedicated Aboriginal Education team within a Catholic school system in NSW.
Staff, teachers and students at CEDP are committed to continuing the great work of Jarara and ensuring the collective community feels welcomed, comfortable and safe in representing culture and developing a sense of affinity within the school system.
“It’s about recognising the gaps but making a commitment that we can do better,” said Bede Polding Principal Mark Compton. “We are on a journey and recognise that there is work to do. It’s a real privilege to be part of this conversation. I feel blessed”.
With thanks to Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta.