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National Reconciliation Week: in this together

Collage of student responses to Reconciliation
Year 8 students at the Glen Waverley Campus created and shared artwork with the hashtags #InThisTogether and #NRW2020 to spread awareness about the crucial importance of Reconciliation

National Reconciliation Week is an opportunity to reflect on and recommit to our shared Reconciliation journey, and with students learning from home and on campus, Wesley celebrated in many different ways, an especially fitting way to acknowledge we’re #InThisTogether.

With Senior School students and students in Prep and Years 1 and 2 back on-campus and the remainder of our students learning from home in virtual classrooms for one more week, Wesley’s three campuses decided to take a ‘distributed’ approach to celebrating National Reconciliation Week – an especially fitting way to acknowledge the 2020 theme: #InThisTogether.

Learn our truth

Wesmob at the St Kilda Road Campus held a ‘distributed’ film screening of In My Blood It Runs, organised by Wesmob Prefect, Saskia Lloyd. ‘In My Blood It Runs tells the story of 10-year-old Dujuan and the path he negotiates between a strong Arrernte education and Western education,’ Saskia said. ‘We walk with him as he grapples with the tensions between his traditional culture and formal schooling, as he shares his truths and, somewhere in-between, finds space to dream, imagine and hope for his future self.

‘Wesmob at the St Kilda Road Campus was very excited to be able to organise the screening of In My Blood It Runs and help share Dujuan’s message with the next generation of changemakers in line with the launch of the #LearnOurTruth campaign,’ Saskia said. ‘We wanted students to be able to watch the film with their whole family and encouraged them to participate in and share their own individual Acknowledgement of Country.’

Still of 10-year-old Dujuan from the film, In My Blood It Runs. Image Maya Newell courtesy Closer Productions

St Kilda Road teacher Rohan Chiu said the screening was a great opportunity for the Wesley community to participate in the #LearnOurTruth campaign. ‘Watching In My Blood It Runs at home together and talking about it was a great opportunity for students and families to learn about Indigenous stories and truth,’ Rohan said.

Two-way learning

According to Felicity Pearson, Acting Director of the Yiramalay/Wesley Studio School, one of the key messages of the film is that Aboriginal people have the solutions and want the agency to control their own lives. ‘For the past 10 years, the partnership Wesley has had with the Bunuba people of the Kimberley region of Western Australian has enabled a rich opportunity for non-Aboriginal people to listen deeply and respectfully to the voices of Aboriginal people,’ Felicity said.

‘Traditional owners, families and especially our students have guided us and been integral to the creation of a culturally safe environment in which to access education and experience success, indeed the key goal of the In My Blood It Runs campaign. Yiramalay brings together students from across western, central and northern Australia to celebrate each other’s cultures, traditions and languages; equally, the school connects Aboriginal students and Melbourne-based Wesley students in an effort that they learn with and from one another. There is still work to be done but the Yiramalay/Wesley Studio School has certainly come a very long way in ensuring that we are genuinely all # InThisTogether as we journey towards enabling a bright future for all young people.’

Sharing stories

The Elsternwick Campus marked National Reconciliation Week with a Reconciliation Chapel, an opportunity to highlight our gratitude for the lands Indigenous people have cared for and share with us today, develop our understanding of Indigenous connection to Country and consider how our connection to our local community and our country has strengthened during these unusual times. The event included a screening of photos of our feet on Country and the sharing of stories of gratitude, particularly a story shared by Kahlia Rogers (OW2016), a Yiramalay graduate and current Yiramalay staff member, who has also pursued a modelling career. Students across the Middle School also viewed a great resource from the ABC in which Aboriginal children describe what their identity means to them.

Reconciliation is a shared journey, whoever we are, wherever we are

At the Glen Waverley Campus, National Reconciliation Week is usually a time when we show our respect at a special Reconciliation Day Assembly. As Year 8 Cluster Leader, Alexandra Thompson explained, ‘Even though our Year 8 students can’t literally be together this year, we can still show respect to people and Country, wherever we are. With our students learning from home, we asked them to find out who are the traditional owners of the land on which they were standing and create and share artwork with the hashtags #InThisTogether and #NRW2020to spread awareness about the crucial importance of Reconciliation.’

On-campus, the Goldstraw Visual Arts Centre hosted ‘Country is Culture,’ an art exhibition of some 70 works from across Australia, including works by Wesley/Yiramalay Studio School students, that represent the laws and Country, stories and culture, and art styles of many Indigenous language groups and art centres from across Australia.

Wesmob Prefect, Tim Cundall, created a presentation for Senior School tutorial groups that explored the significance of National Reconciliation Week and this year’s artwork, designed by Biripi/Bunjalung artist Nikita Ridgeway. ‘Nikita represents Australians at different points on their Reconciliation journey, intertwined in communities like our Yiramalay/Wesley Studio School community,’ Tim said. ‘Yiramalay has opened to me a world of beautiful people, traditions and locations. Wesley gives us the opportunity to broaden our horizons, but also to forge incredible friendships. This year’s theme couldn’t be more appropriate at Wesley: wherever our students are in Australia or overseas at the moment, we’re definitely #InThisTogether.’