If you ask Year 5 and 6 students from Fassifern Public School what Reconciliation Week is all about, chances are you’ll notice an emerging theme.
‘Respect’, ‘Equality’, ‘Voice’ and ‘Togetherness’ are all terms the 11- and 12-year-olds are becoming both familiar and comfortable with.
Gathering at the Museum of Art and Culture (MAC yapang) in Booragul on Thursday morning, the pre-teens were a group of more than 400 school students marking a day aimed at encouraging the sharing and uniting of cultures.
Joined by their teacher Shirelle Douglas, the students partook in activities including weaving, cyanotype printing, colouring, ceramics, and discussions about artworks and possum skin cloaks.
Many were mesmerisied to hear the firsthand stories of Indigenous elders, including Aunty Fern Martin.
This year’s National Reconciliation Week theme is ‘Be a Voice for Generations’, urging all Australians to use their power, their words and their actions to create a better, more just, Australia for all of us.
Fassifern was one of eight primary schools in attendance, all Lake Macquarie High School feeder schools.
The inaugural event was a collaboration between the secondary school and the lakeside art gallery.
“It was created off the back of the success of last year’s Reconciliation Walk held in Toronto,” explains Lake Macquarie High School principal Brendan Maher.
“We wanted to do something that was authentic for the community here.
“We’re right next to the art gallery so it made sense to bring culture and art together for the students right here.”
Mr Maher says 110 of the high school’s 500 students identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.
Thursday’s activities presented a creative approach to transitioning into higher education for First Nations students.
“We are grateful to the council for helping to enable students to have this opportunity of increasing their understanding of Aboriginal culture and its significance for our current and future way of life,” Mr Maher said.
“I’m confident the students and staff taking part will share their experiences with their peers and support us in working to make this an annual event.”
The 12 activity stations sprawling the grounds of MAC yapang and overlooking Lake Macquarie, were a hands-on approach to further what the students had been learning within the classroom during the week.
“We’ve learnt about the stolen generation and how Aboriginal children were taken from their families,” says 11-year-old Kayla Winter.
“And we’ve learned that the Aboriginal people have been here for a long time, and they deserve respect and to be treated as equal,” added 10-year-old Aston Lategan.
Reconciliation Week 2023 runs from May 27 to June 3.
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