National Reconciliation Week



At Camberwell Girls we are committed to our development as an inclusive and caring community of students, families, staff, old grammarians and friends of the School and the importance of building these relationships.  This week we have recognised and celebrated National Reconciliation Week; focusing on reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians and being united in our vision to succeed through strong relationships whilst walking together to develop a shared sense of what is fair and just.  In fact, the theme for National Reconciliation Week in 2017 is ‘Let’s Take the Next Steps’.

Each year National Reconciliation Week commences on 27 May, the date in 1967 when Australians voted to give the Commonwealth the power to make laws for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and recognise them in the National Census.  This year marks the 50th anniversary of that decision.

National Reconciliation week concludes on 3 June each year recognising the historic Mabo decision that was handed down legally recognising that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have a special relationship to the land that existed prior to colonisation.  This has also paved the way for land rights for some indigenous people and 2017 marks the 25th anniversary of that decision.

This week we have had numerous events and activities at both Ormiston and Senior School to help us recognise and celebrate National Reconciliation Week. You will learn more about these in other sections of this newsletter.  Murrundindi, ngurungaeta of the Wurundjeri people, has been integral in assisting us to organise these special opportunities. One of the things that I have always admired about Murrundindi is his unwavering commitment in looking towards the future.  There have been many injustices that he has experienced as an indigenous person, and of course many that his people have experienced, yet he always looks forward and demonstrates his commitment to reconciliation and unity through the work that he does with young people.  I would like to, on behalf of Camberwell Girls community, acknowledge Murrundindi and give our thanks to him for including us in his life.

During Reconciliation Week we were also delighted to welcome to our Senior School Assembly ‘In Conversation’, John Batman Weire and Murrundindi, to talk about the theme of reconciliation and also the signing of the Batman Treaty on 6 June 1835 at a special ceremony that included aboriginal leaders from the Kulin Nation.  John, the great great great Grandson of John Batman, founder of Melbourne, and Murrundindi, the great great great nephew of William Barak, who at 11 years of age was also at the ceremony, shared their understanding of the event.

At the time the doctrine of terra nullius or the country being nobody’s land when white people settled Australia, meant that the Crown had rights to the land and the relationship between indigenous people and their land was not recognised by law.  At this event, John Batman, acknowledging aboriginal ownership of the land, negotiated with the Aboriginal leaders to use large packages of land in exchange for some basic items and also offered to pay an annual tribute or rent.  Batman’s Treaty was declared invalid by the Proclamation of Governor Burke in NSW on 6 August 1835, two months after it had been signed, as he declared that the British Government owned the land so Batman could not make such a deal.

In the broader community there have been questions as to whether John Batman was or was not a friend of aboriginal people, and this week’s discussion between descendants of some of the key figures of the time was able to give insights into understanding this important time in the formation of Melbourne.  Discussions also centred around the establishment of Coranderrk, a self-sufficient aboriginal community near Healesville in 1863 and how an older William Barak in 1874 worked tirelessly to ensure that it was not closed down and the residents relocated.

In fact, in a few weeks time a group of our Year 10 students will be hiking and canoeing to retrace William Barak’s journeys from Coranderrk to Parliament in both 1874 and 1881 to meet with government officials to stop the closure of Coranderrk Reserve.  This will be an important learning journey for our students and School, enabling us to gain a greater insight into our history.

William Barak’s influence can also be seen in the creation of our new labyrinth in the Amphitheatre.  During Term 1, with the permission of aboriginal elders including Murrundindi, students and staff created the images of some animals from William Barak’s paintings in the form of large mosaic images under the guidance of artist Simon Normand.  The images are of the wombat, emu and lyrebird.  In addition, a special image of Bunjil the eagle has also been incorporated.

For the first time a team of Camberwell Girls Grammar School netballers participated in the Worawa Aboriginal College Reconciliation Sports Carnival this week.  Teams from a number of schools participated in netball and football matches along with other special events including a traditional smoking ceremony.  The day is hosted by Worawa to encourage sport, cultural and social exchange between all participants.

At Camberwell Girls, we are so proud that the history of our Indigenous people, culture and heritage is strongly woven into our ethos and celebrations.  The history of our nation shapes who we are today and how we all need to take the next steps together.


Have a wonderful weekend.

With best wishes,
Debbie Dunwoody

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