Reconciliation Week at the FAME Flexible Learning Centre (Adelaide, SA)
The Senior School at FAME decided to fully embrace Reconciliation week by taking the focus off normal schoolwork for the week and placing all heart, thinking and energy on what Reconciliation Week (27th May – 3rd June) really means. Our teachers, however, could not let all this learning go untapped and organised for the week’s activities to be linked to the SACE I curriculum: Community Studies that provided 20 SACE credits.
Dale Zampogna (teacher) stated the students set themselves goals over the week to achieve. Some goals that students set included, “To develop my understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island culture by the conclusion of Reconciliation Week” and “To become an agent of change by actively involving myself in meaningful activities”
Students reflected on the activities by creating journals recounting their experiences. One student recounted, “Today we went on an excursion to Southern Reconciliation Week Community Event. We saw dancing, digeridoo playing and a welcome to country. I developed my intercultural understanding by talking to people about the various activities at the event.”
At the conclusion of the subject student’s made a product, such as a poster, based on a specific topic that was brought up in the week. These were displayed around the school and included topics such the national apology to the stolen generation, the health care gap and so on.
There were many highlights amongst the events during Reconciliation week. One of these was the Kaurna Art Workshop on the first day. The workshop was run by Kaurna artist Corey Turner. All three classes from the senior campus came together to hear from Corey and his mother Buster about the history of Aboriginal art and learning that the artwork has a purpose and tells a story. The young people were introduced to various symbols to use in Kaurna art and then got to work writing their own stories using the symbols. Once they had a bit of a design concept for their artwork, they got to work choosing colours and transferring their design on to canvas. The results were fabulous with a huge array of individual stories and designs all while getting tips from Corey and his mum who were very helpful. The young people engaged so well with the artwork and many were proud of their creations.
Another highlight was the excursion to buy native plants to plant in the community garden at FAME. We focused on finding a variety of native species of plants that would brighten up our garden and improve the native ecosystems around the FAME campus. They included species that would attract insects, bees, birds and other native wildlife, as well as some medicinal plants and bush tucker plants that will be used in the kitchen.
The young people also loved participating in a traditional damper making activity in our new commercial kitchen. Each student had the opportunity to prepare and bake their own individual damper loaf and enjoy the fruits of their labour. Staff went to Australian Native Food Co. in Marion and purchased a range of traditional jams such as Green Ant Marmalade, Bush Apple Jam and Native Bush Dukkah for the students to try with their fresh hot damper. The activity was a hit and was highly educational with students gaining an insight into native produce in Australia, as well as native sustainability and teaching them how simple and affordable making their own bread can be.
While we were waiting for the damper to cook, we watched the movie “In My Blood It Runs”, an Australian movie featuring a young Arrernte Aboriginal boy Dujuan as he struggles with the lack of cultural recognition in the school curriculum, his slow disconnection with his healing powers, and his eventual healing move to his Father’s country. Our young people were fully drawn into the power and themes of this documentary, giving rise to some deep conversation and thought.
One activity that stirred some heart-warming responses was the learning around around Acknowledgement of Country. The young people were then encouraged to write their own Acknowledgement of Country using words, phrases and sentiments which represented their awareness of the connection the Kaurna people have to spirit, land and people. This activity was beautifully celebrated by reading their Acknowledgments out in our native garden and closed with a minute of silence whilst listening to the words of Eddie Marbo.
Another highlight for some of the students was in engaging in the ‘tree of life project’ – a narrative therapy tool. Each part of the tree represented a part of their world: where they and their family came from (roots); present day-to-day activities that support their wellbeing (ground); their skills and abilities (trunk); hopes and dreams (branches); important people in their life (leaves); gifts from important people (fruit); and challenges (storms).
Throughout the process the students were able to discuss the important events and people in their life, including identifying protective factors of their strengths to increase awareness of supports. The activity assisted the young people to think about their goals for the future, including any barriers that have thus far got in the way. This was a useful activity to consolidate what is going on for our young people and encourage conversations around how resilient they are and gratitude for the acts of kindness others have provided in their life.
As someone who has spent most of their career in Aboriginal Education, seeing how FAME came together for reconciliation week was truly awe inspiring.
Both students and staff worked tirelessly and open heartedly to explore our nation’s past, present, future and how we can all take action towards a conciliated Australia.
Our students passion shone through with each discussion, activity and word written. This engagement provides hope, hope that for my children and theirs, Australia will honour their story, their truth and create a society that respects one another and celebrates an identity which they’ll never be excluded from.
I couldn’t be any prouder, Thank you FAME.
Jake Burgoyne (Youth Worker)
When I first found out about my aboriginal ancestry, I don’t think it really phased me or meant much to me. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago when I was struggling with my mental health and was struggling to find myself that it really sunk in, and I turned to my culture to help me get though whatever I was going through.
I found it very good for my mental health to find out and discover where I came from, what life was like for my parents growing up, what it was like for my grandparents growing up, and then life for my ancestors 1000s of generations back. Understanding others, having empathy for them and their life has really helped me to understand myself and who I want to be. It helped me to discover and embrace myself by discovering and embracing my family and the history of my family.
Discovering my aboriginal ancestry majorly impacted me spiritually. It made sense, I felt as though I was being cheered on by all my aboriginal ancestors above. I felt like I had been embraced by a huge amount of people and had achieved a huge sense of belonging to something that loved and accepted me unconditionally. It’s as if I have always subconsciously and spiritually been connected to my culture; I felt within me that I belonged to something that I had not yet discovered. It also made sense and explained why I have always felt such a strong connection to the land where I grew up and to nature and animals in general. When I would spend time with family friends who are Aboriginal (before any discovery of my own ancestry), I felt as though they were my family, I felt within me energetically that they were my people and that we were spiritually connected, and they as well felt that connection.
There are times where I am reluctant to say that I am aboriginal; I feel guilty. I sometimes feel as though I do not deserve to, nor do I have the right to, say that I am aboriginal. It is as if I experience a kind of imposter syndrome towards my aboriginal DNA. I feel as though I do not deserve to enjoy being aboriginal and my culture. I have no experience personally of the abuse, discrimination, and racism that my people endure daily, as I do not have dark skin. I often feel as though I am not aboriginal enough. It is beyond unfair that colourism allows me a light skinned aboriginal person, to enjoy my culture without experiencing racism. whereas my people experience it and the effects of it every day. It really upsets me, and it fills me with guilt that we are from the same culture yet the darker the colour of your skin, the more you experience racism and are mistreated.
This feeling of not being aboriginal enough stems from underlying/subconscious colourism that many people have due to forced opinions and stereotypes that some project onto people, that say that you must look and be a certain way to be Aboriginal, rather than paying attention to the ancestry and legitimate DNA of a light skinned aboriginal person. Let alone their efforts to engage and connect with their culture and their land.
I am very proud to be aboriginal, one of the eldest if not the eldest culture ever. A culture who despite the discrimination, racism, abuse and all other, continuously cares for, loves, and protects our country. We put our land first, we are the care takers of our country, we protect it and undo the damage that is made to it. Despite those in power not acknowledging or caring for aboriginal people’s efforts and pain. I feel very proud to be aboriginal.
Lilly is a Year 12 student at FAME.