50 years since the 1967 Referendum (in which close to 91% of Australia’s population voted to include Aboriginal Australians in the population count), and in the year of the Uluru Statement from the Heart and recommendations to government from the Referendum Council, Australia is grappling with complex and long-standing issues of injustice and inequality relating to the First Australians.
On Sunday in Braidwood students from BCS did an outstanding job debating and discussing these issues in a public forum. They had clearly put huge effort into research and preparation, including studying our Constitution (what a feat!) and gaining an impressive depth of understanding of Aboriginal history before and since colonisation. Facts and figures relating to ongoing inequality were presented clearly, and the students’ ideas as to how best to proceed were strong and thought-provoking.
The event began with Aunty Viv, a Yuin Elder from the south coast (with ancestral links to Braidwood) doing a heartfelt Welcome to Country, and sharing some of her family story. She later told the gathering that she had learnt a lot from our students, despite having listened to many political debates on this subject. For Aunty Viv none were as impressive as this from BCS students, which indeed moved her to tears.
Meredith McKinney spoke about how proud her Mum (Judith Wright) would have been to know this event was taking place. We learnt from her that some 40 years ago the first non-indigenous Committee for a Treaty had its genesis in Judith’s home in Mongarlowe, at a meeting with Nugget Coombs and Braidwood resident Stuart Harris.
Students from St Bede’s School performed beautifully, and with a strong sense of rhythm, two of Judith’s poems, “Bora Ring” and “Black Cockatoos”.
And we were also treated to a speech about indigenous language and culture creatively presented by two BCS students juxtaposing indigenous and non-indigenous perspectives.
Many thanks to both Braidwood schools for embracing this event, and congratulations to all the students who took part. Your families and teachers have every right to be proud!
19th Sept 2017