National Reconciliation Week
A standout moment during National Reconciliation Week at Wenona was a powerful and inspiring speech by Head Prefect Jemima (Year 12).
“I realised last week, as I was listening to some peers converse about their HSC Aboriginal Studies major projects, just how much I don’t know. I didn’t know that dot paintings were introduced to Indigenous artists in 1971 by a white Dutch man. I didn’t know that, in the 20th century, $500 million worth of wages were stolen from Indigenous workers in Queensland alone. I did not comprehend that Indigenous Australians were not considered people by the government until 1967 – only 55 years ago. I did not know that the average lifespan of Indigenous people is 10 years less than the rest of the population, which robs them of 10 years of life through no fault of their own. I did not understand that they make up less than three percent of the population yet represent a quarter of all those incarcerated.
And I take issue with myself, that in my privilege, there is so much I have been ignorant of regarding Indigenous experiences.
But it is not about knowing facts. It’s about seeing lives. It’s about understanding that behind these statistics, there are people whose reality is so entirely different from our own – who have been born into intergenerational trauma and disadvantage, whose culture was uprooted 234 years ago and who have been exploited and mistreated ever since, experiencing two centuries of dispossession, injustice, suffering, and survival.
This week is National Reconciliation Week and, in accordance with the theme Be a Voice for Generations, we recognise that we all must play a role in building relationships and communities that value Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples – their histories, their cultures, and their futures.
This topic is complex to navigate. Not many of us here can offer an authentic insight into the variety of Indigenous experiences and perspectives, because we haven’t lived them. As a non-Indigenous Australian, I do not have the right or ability to decide what the solutions are, to determine what is truly productive and what is not. So how do we go about trying to help our society do better?
Well, the spirit of this week is understanding that even the smallest of actions, the smallest of learnings, can help us understand and move forward together. We can offer empathy and solidarity. We can listen. We can always be open to learning. We certainly cannot be so afraid of contributing in the wrong way that we do not contribute at all.
I’m up here talking, a blonde-haired, blue-eyed Wenona student, and I don’t know much. I didn’t want to say the wrong thing today. I didn’t want to speak for an injustice I have never experienced.
But it is not about guilt; it is not about shame; it is not about tiptoeing around the topic. It is about accepting how much we don’t know and listening to those who do.
For us Year 12 students, as emerging voters we must educate ourselves on the referendum regarding the Indigenous Voice to Parliament and what it actually means.
There is no one Indigenous voice, no one perspective, no one story, no one solution, so we need to attempt to understand as many viewpoints as possible.
This week is a reminder of our movement forward as a nation, but we cannot simply raise our heads to care for just a moment and then get back to our lives. We have a duty, a responsibility, to be consistently conscious. It doesn’t take much – just accept that this is a topic that we can always be better informed on, accept that we must do better as a community, and learn when you receive the opportunity.
This week, let’s look outside of ourselves to appreciate Aboriginal culture, know more about countries past, really try to understand Indigenous disadvantage and the reasons behind it and research what is effective affirmative action. And then, let’s carry this forward – into our School community, the rest of our lives and, consequently, our nation’s future.”
Throughout this week, Wenona students have been reflecting on thoughts similar to those shared by Jemima, in alignment with the 2023 theme, Be a Voice for Generations.
A team of staff members from across the School, along with senior students, gathered an extensive collection of multimedia resources to serve as a catalyst for meaningful discussions.
Meanwhile, members of the Junior School Student Representative Council, ranging from Kindergarten to Year 6, collaborated on the creation of posters to increase awareness on the Junior School campus about the importance of advocating for future generations.