Author Thomas Mayor has described Uluru as the ‘spiritual heart of our nation’ in his book on the journey to the Uluru Statement and reconciliation.
Over the past seven years, the St Joseph’s community has been walking a path of reconciliation; it has been a long journey and one that has involved many people walking beside each other.
St Joseph’s have been living the Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) in a vibrant manner with meaningful activities, routine actions, and a close relationship with the Ngadjuri community.
Students at St Joseph’s have been fortunate to experience Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues, viewpoints, and aspects embedded into their learnings over the past seven years.
Late last year, the school sought an opportunity to further the journey.
Growing from a primary school to now include a middle school, there was space to present a new learning area and introduced Indigenous languages and cultures into the core curriculum for years 7, 8 and 9.
The middle school students engage in weekly lessons with the learning intention of developing knowledge and understanding of the rich diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and forming authentic relationships with knowledge keepers.
St Joseph’s is now a pilot school for the Australian Curriculum V9 Indigenous Languages, which works in partnership with the Ngadjuri community and First Nation language experts.
To culminate this learning, students have just returned from a 10-day journey through the Flinders Ranges, South Australia and into central Australia, Uluru-Kata Tjuta national parks, Northern Territory.
The journey started on Ngadjuri country and then moved through Adnyamathanha country where students were able to experience the landscape and cultural heritage of the Flinders Ranges.
Students and staff participated in several cultural experiences and heard first-hand accounts of the social history experienced by the Adnyamathanha people.
This provided a First Nations perspective, and enabled students to reflect on subject content and make connections to classroom learnings.
One of the most moving experiences on country was an ochre ceremony with Uncle Teri Coulthard, an Adnyamathanha Elder.
This experience was deeply spiritual and one that resonated with all students, providing a deep and spiritual point of reflection as they prepare for their senior secondary education journey and draw strength from themselves and those around them.
Students and staff heard about parallels between Adnyamathanha culture and the Catholic faith.
Moving out of Adnyamathanha Country and into Kuyani and Arabana, participants began to grow as a group and as individuals, coming together as a cohort of students, but also began to find their own sense of self, what they value and who they are.
In Coober Pedy, the group had a chance to pause and reflect in the St Peter and St Paul Catholic Church.
From here, they moved on to Pitjantjatjara country where they experienced Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon; these places were amazing.
On this trip they saw more sunrises than a teenager would generally like, however, the beauty and the symbolism of new beginnings was not lost on our students.
This trip allowed students to connect with themselves and step away from their parents and technology.
It strengthened their connection with their peers, faith and Indigenous culture.
It was a journey to the heart of who the students are, and they will graduate with strength of character and self-confidence.