At the end of October, Council celebrated the launch of our Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP). The evening began with Violet Sheridan’s heartfelt Welcome to Country and well wishes for Council’s plan. Then Education Minister Yvette Berry officially launched our RAP.
A highlight of the evening was hearing first hand about excellent programs run in some of our schools that bring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures to the fore. Belconnen High Principal David McCarthy outlined their amazing culture and language courses and electives, Greg Terrell shared Bonython Primary’s inspiring enquiry unit encompassing art and Country, and staff from Kingsford Smith School outlined a range of initiatives from Preschool to Year 10.
What is our RAP all about? It outlines the series of practical actions that we will be taking as an organisation over the next 12 months to build stronger relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and enhance our understanding and respect of their cultures, histories, knowledge and rights.
“The Plan is a clear commitment to recognise and value the rich cultures, work, teachings and spiritual connection with the land of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,” said Council President, Kirsty McGovern-Hooley.
“We are embarking on a journey to become more culturally aware, curious and respectful, and to listen to and learn from our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents and communities.”
We are delighted that Reconciliation Australia has endorsed our first RAP. “As a member of the RAP community, the ACT Council of Parents & Citizens Associations joins over 1,000 dedicated corporate, government, and not-for-profit organisations that have formally committed to reconciliation… turning good intentions into positive actions, helping to build higher trust, lower prejudice, and increase pride in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures,” stated Karen Mundine, CEO of Reconciliation Australia.
Council’s commitment to creating and implementing a RAP began, Kirsty told the launch audience, when several Council representatives met with ACT Audit Office staff who were examining the effectiveness of ACT schools’ engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. When we were asked how Council and P&Cs engaged with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families we realised, with regret, that it was an area we had neglected.
So last year Council volunteers undertook an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Competence Course facilitated by ACT Education Directorate. They found it informative and enlightening. After debriefing a Council Executive Meeting it was agreed to follow the movement of reconciliation and promote positive change to bring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and other members of the ACT school community closer together by developing our own RAP.
“We value and promote education as being the greatest gift of all,” Kirsty said. “We want all families to feel welcome and participate as active members in their school and school parent associations. We want to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices are heard and contribute to school decision making.”
“We want all parents to value and foster a greater respect and understanding of our First Peoples. We have a lot to learn and a lot to reflect on.”
“An important part of our RAP is educating ourselves, and we hope our member parent organisations will walk with us and make our P&Cs, and our schools, more welcoming and understanding places.”
“A number of schools have already started on this journey — some have a RAP or are developing one. I encourage all P&Cs to get behind their schools, to help them attain their goals, build special spaces to increase understanding of culture, organise celebrations of special occasions, and raise funds to support initiatives.”
Whether or not your school has a RAP, Council encourages all parents to learn more about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and histories. There are many excellent resources available, and many ways to get involved.
- The Narragunnawali program helps schools and early learning services foster knowledge and pride in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, cultures and contributions. There’s a range of learning resources and webinars and you can sign up for their newsletter at www.narragunnawali.org.au.
- Cultural competence courses are available from several organisations (eg www.ccca.com.au, aiatsis.gov.au/core).
- Look out for information next year about a ‘think tank’ we will hold to brainstorm how we can all promote this important work through our schools.
- Let us know what your school is doing in reconciliation so we can share it with others.
You'll find out RAP here.
This article appeared in ParentACTion Magazine, Term 4, 2019.