Book project a new chapter in reconciliation
When Ian Millard became principal of Oak Flats Public School last year, one of his first priorities was to strengthen connections between the school and the Aboriginal community.
With 40 of his 480 students of Aboriginal background, Mr Millard wanted a way to celebrate their heritage, as well as inform the non-Aboriginal school community.
He came up with the 'Connect, Engage, Together' project through which a book would be produced containing images of Aboriginal students with information about their aspirations, heritage and examples of their artwork.
With the help of teacher Rebekah Mallam, the school successfully received a $5000 grant from the Illawarra and South East Region.
"It's been an amazing journey from concept to the actual production of the book," Mr Millard said.
"Everyone has learned so much from our Aboriginal students, their families and their community."
He said Year 5 students wrote the Acknowledgement of Country at the front of the book that included the words, 'Together we look forward to a future of mutual respect, harmony and reconciliation'.
"Having listened to and read the aspirations and dreams of our Aboriginal students our Acknowledgement to Country is very appropriate as not only does it acknowledge the past and present, but most importantly it looks towards the future," Mr Millard said.
"Our students have high aspirations and together with their parents and the teachers of Oak Flats Public School there is no reason why these aspirations cannot be met ... together they will."
Illawarra and South East regional director Maria Gray-Spence said the region would print and send a copy of the book to every school in the region as part of their Cultural Awareness package.
"This beautiful book celebrates the culture and heritage of the Aboriginal students at Oaks Flat PS and looks to a bright future for them.
"The making of the book is a wonderful example of the importance of partnerships between teachers, schools, parents, carers and communities in supporting the education of our Aboriginal students," Ms Gray-Spence said.