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Morisset High celebrates 30th anniversary of Itji-Marru Aboriginal Education Centre


Students, past and present, were on hand to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Morisset High School’s Aboriginal Education Centre, Itji-Marru, this week.

And, two special community events – a breakfast followed by an official ceremony – marked the occasion on Thursday 21 July.

Since the facility’s opening three decades ago, almost 700 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander pupils have been nurtured to aspire for success in their learning and life.

“Itji-Marru means to ‘teach everyone’ in Awabakal,” Aboriginal education officer Aunty Selena Archibald said.

“Sharing First Nation People’s knowledge and promoting reconciliation and understanding at the school and in the community is at the heart of the centre’s purpose.

“Itji-Marru is for everyone.

“It does not matter what your background, we welcome every student and share our knowledge with them.

“This place is a resource for the whole community.

“So, we’re extremely proud of the connections that we have created in our 30 years.

“But, it is the kids – our Aboriginal and Islander pupils – who have grown and benefited as people and learners from being connected to their culture, who we are most proud of.”

Dana Paterson is one of many Morisset High School students who has forged a pathway to success.

And, it’s all thanks to the sense of belonging and empowerment she has gained from the cultural, mentoring and education programs offered at Itji-Marru.

The former school captain, and dux, is now working as a caseworker supporting at-risk Indigenous youth.

“Itji-Marru is a safe space for all students of Morisset High, but especially those who are seeking a sense of culture, belonging and security,” she said.

“It is somewhere that young people can just be themselves and access a kind of support that formal education and institutions can’t provide.

“This is especially true for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.”

Ms Paterson had nothing but praise for the centre and its educators.

“Itji-Marru often feels more like home than a school facility,” she said.

“As a learner and a young person, both Itji-Marru and Aunt Selena became a source of strength and empowerment for me.

“I always knew that I could go there for anything I needed – whether it was a quiet place to study, a shoulder to cry on or even just a hot cup of Milo.

“To this day, what I gained through my connection to Itji-Marru is something that I strive to honour through my work and share with others.

“I’m now a caseworker for a non-profit youth organisation, supporting young people through their own journeys and challenges.

“In part, my role focuses on working with Indigenous youth who have been or are at risk of engaging with the criminal justice system.”

Principal Darren Brailey said Morisset High was committed to achieving the NSW Premier’s Priority of increasing the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students who complete their HSC.

“Almost 25% of the school’s pupils identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander,” he explained.

“We know that when students feel a sense of belonging and are connected to their identity they thrive as learners.

“This is the real power of Itji-Marru and the team of Aboriginal education officers, staff and the dedicated cultural programs and activities that we offer at Morisset High.”

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