This week is Reconciliation Week. Reconciliation means acknowledging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples as the First Peoples of this land, and recognising the dispossession, persecution and oppression they have suffered as a result of Australia’s colonisation.
Reconciliation involves developing our understanding of how this history of violence and oppression continues to shape contemporary Australian society and taking steps to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and cultures are treated with dignity and respect at all times.
For reconciliation to be achieved there needs to be a series of real, practical outcomes in relation to the systemic disadvantage experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This involves creating awareness and real education opportunities for all Australians.
I have been a long time supporter of the NSW Reconciliation Council and the great work they do to inform, support and inspire reconciliation. One of the initiatives of the Council is the Schools Reconciliation Challenge. The Challenge is an annual art and writing competition for NSW school students in years 5 to 9. It gives young people across the state the opportunity to learn about and engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, histories and reconciliation in an engaging and creative way.
The Challenge resonates with me because, as long time followers know, I believe that we need to focus on arming todays kids with the knowledge they need to create a better future for Australia. And this is exactly what the Schools Challenge does. It gives kids the space to explore concepts related to reconciliation and present their ideas about what reconciliation means to them.
Schools participating in the Challenge supporting with teaching resources and activities, giving teachers access to meaningful and culturally sensitive materials to foster respectful conversations around reconciliation.
Last year Wingaru started supporting the Challenge and winners of the Primary School categories were awarded with 12 month subscriptions to the Wingaru Kids Platform. We are excited to be able to provide these prizes again this year.
I encourage every NSW school to consider entering the Challenge. It is a great opportunity for kids to explore reconciliation concepts and share their views with the world. The Reconciliation Council hosts an event each year to announce winners and launch a travelling exhibition of the entries. Students works are professionally presented and on display for the public. There is something magical about watching the excitement of students as they discover their work on the walls!
Dates of the touring exhibition will be published on the Reconciliation Council’s website when they are available. I highly recommend a visit!
Details of the Challenge including key dates and information for this years competition and details of last years entries can be found on the NSW Reconciliation Council’s website at http://www.nswreconciliation.org.au/
National Sorry Day is celebrated around the country each year on the 26th of May. As the day approaches, there are Australians out there who are asking why we need to have such a day. Many of these people see Sorry Day as Aboriginal people stuck in the past and not being able move forward.
How very wrong they are.
Sorry Day acknowledges the past and recognises the trauma our people went through in the past, and continue to feel today. It is an official recognition of our Stolen Generations and their stories. It is a celebration of those affected and their resilience, strength and courage.
It is about acknowledging the past and healing the resulting trauma. It is about moving forward.
The first National Sorry Day was held in 1998, following a recommendation in the 1997 Bringing Them Home Report which recommended that a Sorry Day be celebrated each year. Aboriginal communities have embraced the day to come together to share stories, connect with others and ultimately contribute to healing. Healing for those effected by past policies and healing for our country which desperately needs to accept its true history; acknowledge the suffering resulting from colonisation; and allow Australia as a nation to grow.
Sorry Day is not about guilt. It is not about placing blame on today's generation for the actions of the past. It is the people who are stuck in this way of thinking that are unable to move forward because they can’t do so without accepting the past for what it truly was.
This is where education comes in. Schools who acknowledge Sorry Day in a culturally sensitive way, contribute to a shared understanding that supports recognition and healing. If your school needs support with Sorry Day resources, please get in touch because we can help.
There are Sorry Day events taking place all over the country this Saturday 26th May. All Australians are welcome to attend these events and share in the healing. If you have the time, go and check out an event close to you.
With Mother’s Day just gone and Sorry Day fast approaching, I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge all the mums of the Stolen Generation: the mothers whose children were taken, without cause, and in many cases never returned. For those mums, Mother’s Day isn’t about sleep-ins, flowers and carefully selected gifts that symbolise love and thanks. It is about a loss that never goes away.
Often discussion around the Stolen Generation is about the children who were taken and the trauma they endured. Horrific stories of loss, abuse and never belonging. We often hear about children who never saw their mums again, some finding their families not long after their mothers had passed and many never finding their way home.
These heartbreaking stories of injustice, have another side – that of the mother. The mother who had her children ripped away and in many cases never returned. The mother who spent every Mothers Day since mourning loss rather than celebrating with her children. She did not get the handmade cards that many of us take for granted. She did not get the cold toast and too sweet tea that we swallow with a stiff smile on our lips. She did not get the carefully selected trinkets that her child chose just for her. She did not get those moments that most other mums get to treasure.
Growing up, I knew that my Aunt had had her children removed. I heard stories of the school holidays when all the cousins got to spend time together at another Aunt’s house. My mum talks of those holidays fondly and the time she got to spend with her cousins brought fun and mischief for them all. Of course there were strict rules about my Aunt not being allowed near her kids.
Years later mother and children were reunited and I had always known them as together. So while I knew they had been apart, I hadn’t put any thought into the impact that separation had on all of them.
In my early 20s I spent a lot of time visiting my now elderly aunt in hospital. I would take my grandfather to visit his sister and listen to their stories. Aunty had dementia and would often slip between the present and the past, confused about what was happening. It was during these visits that I really started to understand the long term trauma she had endured. Not only did she have to go through the removal of her children, and the loss she felt every day while they were gone, the dementia meant that she also had to relive their removal time and time again.
During these visits she would often confuse me with my mum and on many occasions would make me get in the cupboard or under the bed to hide me from the Protection Board. She would be visibly frightened and upset that they were coming and they were going to take me, just as they had her boys. I did as she asked and my Pop tried to comfort her but I knew that there would never be true comfort for her – the removal of her kids was too traumatic.
This Mother’s Day my boys bounded into my room before the sun was up, shouting “Happy Mother’s Day”, thrusting themselves at me with great excitement. I hugged them tightly and thought of all the mums who had Mother’s Day stolen from them. I cannot imagine their loss – it is too great.
To the Mothers of the Stolen Generation, we have not forgotten you. We mourn your loss, we acknowledge your stories and the atrocities you suffered. We admire your strength.
We are sorry.
A Guest Post by Carolyn Newall from We Teach Well
For those of us who are dedicated teachers of English and literature, literacy has always meant more than the ability to read words on a page. Literacy is the ability to make meaning from those words. To read them, evaluate them, use them, create content with them, understand and make meaning from them.
Literacy is a current buzzword in Education, nowhere more so than when it is attached to words like media and digital. Media literacy and digital literacy are not exactly the same as normal literacy, but neither are they completely unconnected.
Just as normal literacy concerned itself with making meaning out of written texts, media and digital literacy concern themselves with making meaning out of media and digital texts. As such, English teachers can not afford to be elitists and ignore them.
English teachers do not have a specific body of content to impart. They have a never ending wealth of content with which to teach a variety of skills and abilities. The most advanced being the ability to understand and make meaning from the world we live in. And make no mistake, for our students it is a digital world and we need to get ahead of it.
I have been particularly concerned for some time with the importance of cultural signifiers in reading comprehension. That is to say, are there cultural references in the text that make it inaccessible for a student who does not know that cultural context. Indigenous educators across the world have done really important work in this area and created more equitable contexts for their students.
Just as we need to be aware of cultural content we need to be aware of cultural modes of transmission. To create the best outcomes for our students we need to allow them access to modes that they are familiar with. Modes that allow them to display their understandings in new and different ways.
For my own son who suffered from dyslexia but had a visual memory that still astounds me, this would have been a game changer. Despite A grades for all spoken and media presentations, his written work was always poor and consequently his overall score for English was not good. Had he been allowed to make movies, record a podcast, create a social media profile, he could have demonstrated his understanding and analytical prowess far more successfully.
Teaching English is about teaching students to make meaning and communicate it to their audience. Writing essays can not be the only way we judge their prowess. The digital world is not going anywhere and we need to keep up.
On a side note, digital modes are opening up ways for teachers to have far greater impact and to earn extra income as well. But that is a topic for another day.
For now I have provided a complimentary copy, only for readers of the Wingaru Education Blog, of our presentation Teaching Film as Text.
Also If anyone is interested you will find some of our resources, including our free ebook, So You Want Them To Read, for teaching film at our TES store. https://www.tes.com/teaching-resources/shop/WeTeachWell
We Teach Well
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