National Reconciliation Week
Photo by Rebecca Langdon
Public schools across the state are participating in Reconciliation Week to celebrate the contributions, cultures and histories of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
The week commemorates two significant milestones in the reconciliation journey - the anniversaries of the 1967 Referendum and the High Court Mabo ruling.
For Aboriginal educator Rebecca Langdon celebrating Reconciliation Week has become even more poignant after discovering Eddie Mabo's grandchildren had attended Coonamble Public School, where she has been acting executive principal since February this year.
"It was quite an amazing occurrence because for new staff including myself we didn't know they had attended until we started talking about Mabo," Ms Langdon said.
"It's an amazing experience for all of us ... and me being an Aboriginal woman I felt overcome and amazed that this connection was so close to us - its goose bump stuff."
Coonamble Public School activities in the lead up to Reconciliation Week involving preschool to Year 6 students have centred on literacy and numeracy. Stage 3 students researched Mabo (which legally recognised Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have a special relationship to the land and paved the way for Native Title land rights). The students also investigated the 1967 Referendum, where Aboriginal people were for the first time recognised in the national census.
At a school community assembly, students and their families heard the poem "Reconciliation" from the book Anna the Goanna by Jill McDougall, Ms Langdon said.
Different outside same within
Same blood different skin
Same planet, same sun
We are many, we are one.
Hands of Reconciliation
The students also made Hands of Reconciliation, based on the 1997 Sea of Hands installation to mobilise support for Native Title and reconciliation.
"We've put our own tilt on it but still have that baseline of understanding of what reconciliation is and from that the students are able to participate in the true meaning of the activities we have in the school," Ms Langdon said.
"If you go into the playground or into the classrooms you can ask the students and teachers what does reconciliation mean and they can talk about sharing, understanding, compassion, friends, working together. We talk about being proud and identifying and recognising who we are as individuals and talk about how proud and powerful it is to be an Aboriginal Australian."
Building strong relationships
Ms Langdon said community partnerships and high expectations played an important role in the spirit of reconciliation and in the future success of her students.
"I see myself as a role model to my Aboriginal staff, students and community," she said.
"I firmly believe building very strong partnerships and relationships with all people I come across in my life. I have an opportunity here at Coonamble Public School to instil success for all our students."