“To me, Sorry Day is more than just a time to remember the Stolen Generation. It is a time to reflect on what has happened in the past and acknowledge the trauma that has been caused by colonisation to our way of life. It has broken up families, destroying culture and changing our connection to mother earth.”
—Michael Dingo, a proud Yamatji man and Year 10 student at BGS
Today at Senior Assembly, BGS recognised National Sorry Day ahead of National Reconciliation Week next week. This is a significant day in the School’s calendar when the School not only acknowledges and recognises members of the Stolen Generation, but also provides an opportunity for our Indigenous students to share their stories with the BGS community.
Michael Dingo began the assembly by sharing his story, speaking to the strong connection Indigenous people have with the land as its custodians. Michael’s homeland is located over 1000km north of Perth in Western Australia, and his ancestors have called this area home since the Dreamtime.
Following Michael, Mr Jon Hodges, one of the School's experienced Outdoor Education teachers, spoke passionately about the respect he has for Indigenous people and his desire to learn more about their connection with the country. To close the assembly, Prefect Sebastian Porras offered some practical ideas as to how each student can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia.
Relationships with Indigenous people and communities are the authentic underpinning for the School's vision of reconciliation. Such relationships improve understanding, enabling us to embrace diversity and ensure an inclusive school community.
In 2007, BGS launched its first Reconciliation Action Plan, a business plan that documents what the School commits to do to contribute to reconciliation in Australia. This week BGS released a draft of the next stage in our commitment to reconciliation.
The BGS Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) aims to support and encourage the entire School community to take part in the broader movement towards reconciliation between Indigenous Australians and non-Indigenous Australians. The School's vision is to foster an environment that respects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, cultures and knowledge and work towards addressing the legacies of the past by developing reciprocal relationships with Indigenous people and their communities.
In the spirit of reconciliation and the raising of our community’s awareness and understanding of Indigenous culture, the School's desire to contribute has ranged from fundraising through to exchanges and service projects. BGS' relationship with Queensland Children’s Hospital continues to strengthen, with boys from the Closing the Gap Committee invited to create Cultural Welcome Packs for Indigenous children who require medical care.
The School's annual service immersion to remote Indigenous communities in Cape York is now in its seventh year. Through such programs, students are challenged to consider what part they can play as aware, educated and active global citizens to bring reconciliation one step closer.
In the last few years, the BGS Outdoor Education program has been incorporating an Indigenous element into its yearly skills and knowledge development. The weaving of an Indigenous curriculum throughout the program builds on the connection to place that already exists and adds another dimension that many programs do not offer.
The program has built a strong connection with local Ugarapul Elders and has included Douglas James to teach songs, and boomerang and spear-throwing skills in the Year 7 program. Local language is also a big part of the sessions with Year 7.
Lore stories shared with us from Gunni Thakun Elder Uncle Paul Gordon have been taught to Year 8s and fit well with the objectives and outcomes of teamwork.
It is anticipated that through the land acquisition of Bitenbar and with further consultation with numerous Indigenous groups that the BGS Outdoor Education program can build on the strong Indigenous links to the program.
There is no doubt that incorporating Indigenous knowledge of story, skills, language and lore helps enrich the program and build a deeper understanding of connection to place, culture and the environment.
BGS is committed to continue providing educational experiences about Indigenous culture, and to consider all actions possible to make reconciliation a reality.