Maclean High students involved with the Desert Pea Media project.
Maclean High students involved with the Desert Pea Media project.

Maclean High’s ten year reconciliation reward

WHEN Maclean High School was announced as this year's winner of the Narragunnawali award for excellence in reconciliation initiatives in education, it was a source of pride for both the staff and students for the school.

But instructional Leader Aboriginal Students at the school Liza Hamilton is quick to point out that it's been no flash-in-the-pan idea, with the school making reconciliation an active part of its curriculum for the past ten years.

'It's been ten years of constantly doing projects," Ms Hamilton said. "Ten years of work from our staff, many who have retired and left a great legacy for what we want to do.

"It's a long time we've been working with the community and the elders to try and embed Yaegl perspective and reconciliation at the school.

"That has made our school more vibrant and shown what it can do educationally for the students."

Narragunnawali (pronounced narra-gunna-wally) is a word from the language of the Ngunnawal people, Traditional Owners of the land on which Reconciliation Australia's Canberra office is located, meaning alive, wellbeing, coming together and peace.

The word, used with permission of the elder's council is one that Ms Hamilton said sits well with their approach.

 

Smiles all round as Maclean High accepts the Narragunnawali award at the ceremony in Canberra.
Smiles all round as Maclean High accepts the Narragunnawali award at the ceremony in Canberra.

 

"The award criteria was really about formalising things that was already being done at the school - it was respect, relationships and opportunities we could demonstrate for reconciliation," Ms Hamilton said.

"We had to demonstrate we had a reconciliation plan at the school, which we didn't have, and so we formed a working group together."

The school has demonstrated many programs over the past years, include the River of Learning.

"It is a part of term one that it is part of the whole curriculum. We take the year seven on a cultural tour to Brooms Head and Redcliff, and then in English they will rewrite a narrative on that as one part," Ms Hamilton said.

The school also has a partnership with Macquarie University for a Rational indigenous Science Education Program, which also won a national award for excellence in STEM education, which coincides with the River of Learning day.

"They will be doing a science exp where the Aboriginal students are demonstrators and show the science, but also using things like bush foods," Ms Hamilton said.

"It's empowered our students in having an interest in the science."

The school has also participated in Close the Gap days with other schools, as well as conducting NAIDOC celebrations as a whole school and planning to expand that in to the entire community, including local primary schools.

Coming up, they will again collaborate with Desert Pea Media to create another project with input from local Yaegl elders.

"It's given us a big boost," Ms Hamilton said. "It's cross-generational collaboration between the elders and the students."

"We've had some lovely experiences from the elder's childhood come out, and you can't demand that, it just has to come as the moment arrives."

 

Yaegl elders helping students with their project with Desert Pea Media.
Yaegl elders helping students with their project with Desert Pea Media.

 

Ms Hamilton said that students and staff were elated to receive the award, with Ms Hamilton saying to be among three national finalists was reward enough.

"The students especially are thrilled, and they're proud - proud to own their culture and explore it," she said.

"Before if you went up to a child it was like 'shame', but now it's 'yeah, no problem'.

"There's another side of the program that is generating a social conscience, a sense of community and a sense of identity.

"There's a lot of teenagers, and we as adults have to help them find that.

"The rest of the school really support the program, and they, in turn, support each other. There's a nice vibrancy where everyone is benefiting from this."

Ms Hamilton said she wanted to pay tribute in particular to the school's Aboriginal education officers Sam Kapeen, Krystall Randall, Anjanette Warburton and Deborah Breckenridge.

'They do all the hard work," she said.



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