I don’t remember the presenter’s name, but I will always remember the moment.
On this piece of paper write your name.
In another part of the paper draw or write a representation of your family.
And finally, take the time to create an illustration of your home.
As someone who likes to draw, I was deep in the flow of recreating my home at the time when she walked up took the piece of paper and without explanation ripped the paper into shreds.
Along with the other workshop participants, I sat in shock, completely unaware of what was happening. Had I done something wrong? Had I made a mistake? Had I caused offence? Did we upset her?
Following that period of silence, after we all had our names, family and homes torn apart, the presenter went on to use the experience as a metaphor for what many of our first nations people have experienced in the time since white colonisation – loss of identity, separation from family, loss of connection to country. It was a sobering experience.
This was only one of the learning experiences and encounters that have helped shaped my commitment to understanding and learning how to work towards reconciliation. The more I listen to the stories and voices of First Nations people, the more I realise the false assumptions I may have made even if they were well-intentioned, and the more I realise the deep importance of continuing to being open to learn from and with First Nations people as we journey together for reconciliation.
This year’s theme for Reconciliation Week is ‘More than a word. Reconciliation takes action’ which urges us towards braver and more impactful action. The Reconciliation Week website reminds us that:
‘Reconciliation is a journey for all Australians – as individuals, families, communities, organisations and importantly as a nation. At the heart of the journey are relationships between the broader Australian community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’.
It also reminds us of the importance of privileging and amplifying First Nations voices. This is where awareness is as critical as action. I am grateful for the generosity of our first nations students and their families, who along with other members of the local Aboriginal community invite us into their story, share with us their truth and walk with us on the journey of awareness raising and education. For us this is not a token gesture that happens once a year during National Reconciliation Week but an ongoing commitment throughout all that we do as a College. I was hope-filled recently in speaking to some of our Year 8 students as they shared with interest what they had learned in their recent ‘My Place’ studies which they hope to share with us in the upcoming expo. There cannot be reconciliation without education.
As you read this we will be in the first days of our latest lockdown. And whilst this is not a space any of us would wish to be in, we encourage all within our community, especially our students, to consider the positives that this time might bring. We know from last year that amidst the challenges there were also many inspirations and saving graces. Not having the daily commute or travel to school brings us moments where we can choose to be with family, enjoy some extra exercise or take time out with mindfulness or meditation. We know that our students have the capacity for independence and responsibility for their learning with the guidance of their teachers in the online space. We also know that they look out for each other and their teachers and we encourage all to stay connected by being online in each scheduled class from Monday. Our School Improvement Leaders: Wellbeing have shared some helpful tips for wellbeing during lockdown later in this newsletter.
It might only be May however very shortly we commence the processes of staffing for 2022. There are some changes that we are already aware of that I would like to share with our community.
Firstly Richard Jones, one of our Assistant Principals has announced that he will be retiring from Clonard at the end of the year. Richard has been an integral part of the Clonard story for over 20 years as both a teacher and senior leader. He has impacted so many lives and shared in the journey of so many young people. He is a person of great faith and wisdom and embodies deeply the Kildare Ministry values especially expressed through the Brigidine tradition. I have truly valued his contribution, support and commitment to the College during my time as Principal. Richard will be taking long service leave during Term 3 before returning for his final term of teaching and leading with us in Term 4.
Josephine Ryan our Library Services Manager is also commencing a transition to retirement. Jo will be taking long service leave for Semester 2 of this year before returning part-time in 2022. Following a recruitment process, Brendan Ryan, a current member of our staff, has been appointed to the position of Library Services Manager for Semester 2. Brendan, who is also an accomplished author, has a passion for books and ideas and is eager to embrace the possibilities that this opportunity presents.
Linden Young who has served our community through her work as an IT Technician will be transitioning to a new role as a College archivist commencing in Term 3. With the College now in its 65th year, we believe it is critical to formalise some of our processes of curating, preserving and celebrating our history. Linden came along to our reunion earlier this year and has already made a number of connections with past students. We hope to establish a heritage room in Clonard House that will make our archives more accessible for the community.
A note of thanks to all families for your support in our efforts to ensure our students are wearing our uniform correctly and with pride. There has already been a marked improvement. As stated in the communication to families, our uniform helps to form our sense of identity, connection and belonging. We will continue to be following up with students upon our return from remote learning. In paying attention to small things we are helping to remind our students of the expectations for presenting our best selves and maintaining high standards.
Until next time we trust that your families stay safe and well.