Koori connection at Clifton Springs Primary School
THE BELLARINE Salvos, led by Bethany Baillie, recorded a series of videos for National Reconciliation Week (May 27-June 3) starring pupils from Clifton Springs Primary School.
Principal Meg Parker said the school had increased by 50 children annually over the past three years, and with the population growth, they now have 21 Koori and Torres Strait Islander pupils.
“We have a group called the Koori Kids at our school. During Reconciliation Week, we’re talking to our students about what NRW is and incorporating it into their learning.”
According to the NRW site, Reconciliation Week is “a time for all Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures and achievements, and to explore how each of us can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia”.
Ms Baillie said this year’s theme is “In this Together” and while original plans were affected by the restrictions, they decided to go ahead and share stories via film.
“We spoke to students at Clifton Springs Primary School (CSPS) and asked what reconciliation means to them. We spoke to Uncle Vince Ross who founded the Narana Aboriginal Cultural Centre. He grew up on a mission camp and in speaking to him, not only did we hear his story, we also learned he wanted to hear ours.”
Ms Baillie said through filming and conversations she learned more about the “crazy history” of the Bellarine and while some people may not “look Aboriginal” there’s a reason behind it.
“People are still alive that are part of the Stolen Generation, taken from their families to be ‘bred out’. They may not look Aboriginal but there’s a bad history behind it.
“A lot of the kids we interviewed are learning what it means to be Aboriginal, and the CSPS is doing a great job to help these kids learn about their own culture.”
Richard Fry has worked as a Koori education support officer in the region for 40 years. He said, as an Aboriginal man of Wotjobaluk and Gunditjmara descent, he encouraged the wider community to celebrate Aboriginal culture and history year-round.
“The message of reconciliation is all about respect, mutual respect. Respect for ones’ self, respect for country, respect for Aboriginal culture,” Mr Fry said.
“It’s about acceptance of the past injustices towards Aboriginal people and truth telling of Australia’s history; Aboriginal culture and history is Australia’s history.”
From writing their own Acknowledgment to Country, to hosting guest speakers such as Olympic gold medallist and former politician Nova Peris, Ms Parker said the children are supported and encouraged to embrace their history.
“Our pupils are proud and happy to do the Acknowledgement to Country at assembly. I’ve seen the change over the years where students are no longer ashamed or embarrassed to declare they’re Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander peoples.”
As for reconciliation, Ms Parker said an Aboriginal elder once said it best.
“There doesn’t have to be a ‘them’ and ‘us’; there can be a ‘we’. The Aboriginal elder said ‘We’re all here together, that’s not going to change anytime soon. It’s how we get along together now’.”