Clarence Valley Independent

Maclean High’s reconciliation program a finalist

Yaegl Elder Aunty Lenore Parker (left) speaks to children at Baryugil Public School, where Maclean High School conducts part of its River of Learning Program. “We have made a great bond with Baryugil,” says deputy principal Liza Hamilton. “Aunty Lenore is recounting to the students the moment a fig tree was brought down, which was part of my geography lesson to the students. She was telling them (and me) about the moment all the dust was flying.” Image: Contributed

Geoff Helisma |

Maclean High School is a finalist in the schools section of the Narragunnawali Awards, Australia’s first national awards program for reconciliation in schools and early learning services.

Narragunnawali is part of Reconciliation Australia and supports schools and early learning services to foster knowledge and pride in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures.

The school’s deputy principal and instructional leader Aboriginal students, Liza Hamilton, said the school was proud of what it had achieved in its work towards reconciliation.

“We were already doing most of the things that were in the awards checklist,” she said.

“To satisfy the award criteria we had to do a reconciliation plan that outlined the direction we are heading.

“We had to satisfy three areas – respect, relationships and opportunities – and how the school has embraced reconciliation using those criteria.

“Our submission included our curricular and extracurricular activities; including our River of Learning Program with Macquarie University, Elders Cultural Tours and the videos our students and Elders made with Desert Pea Media.

“We also used the article you wrote from [the Autumn 2019] Scene Magazine, ‘Reconciling Australia’s history from the heart’.

“The school was thrilled to use the article in our submission.”

Reconciliation Australia’s chief executive officer, Karen Mundine, said all of the finalists had “enthusiastically embraced reconciliation”.

“We were so impressed by the calibre and creativity of the nominees this year, and particularly of the finalists,” she said.

“Teachers and students alike have been working in partnership with elders, traditional owners and community members to ensure teaching and learning is relevant to their local community context.

“They have been actively engaging with the true histories of the Country on which their school respectively stands, and exploring themes of racism, holistic approaches to wellbeing, land management practices and sustainability.”

“The important work that these children, students, teachers and broader communities are doing is part of a broader movement of Australians learning, unlearning and relearning our shared histories in schools and early learning services around the country.”

The Narragunnawali Awards, sponsored by the BHP Foundation, celebrate schools and early learning services that are striving for a just, equitable and reconciled Australia.

The finalists are: Schools – Maclean High School, Tamborine Mountain State School (Qld) and Moolap Primary School (Vic); Early Learning – Kelly’s Place Children’s Centre (Sydney, NSW), Forbes Preschool Kindergarten (Forbes, NSW) and Barefoot Early Childhood (Dayboro, Qld).

The winners of the Narragunnawali Awards will be announced and live-streamed at an awards ceremony in Canberra on Thursday evening November 14.

Narragunnawali (pronounced narra-gunna-wally) is a word from the language of the Ngunnawal people, meaning alive, wellbeing, coming together and peace.

The Ngunnawal people are the traditional owners of the land on which Reconciliation Australia’s Canberra office is located.

More than 35,000 individuals have signed up to the Narragunnawali platform, and more than 4,500 schools and early learning services – equivalent to 14 per cent of schools – have commenced a reconciliation action plan.

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