Bayanami Public's big birthday bash

Bayanami Public has celebrated its official opening, five years after the school first welcomed students. Pascal Adolphe reports.

Dancers perform in front of hundreds of students. Dancers perform in front of hundreds of students.
Image: The Jannawi Dance Clan performed traditional dances that drew on the Parramatta River as a key ‘songline’.

It was a celebration five years in the making.

Amidst great fanfare, a traditional Aboriginal smoking ceremony and dancing, and a few joyful tears, Bayanami Public marked its official opening, precisely five years and four days since the school welcomed its initial kindergarten cohort.

Bayanami Public started life as a ‘pop up’ school of demountable buildings, welcoming 78 Kindergarten students in 2018 under the provisional name O’Connell Public School, but plans for an official opening were thwarted by COVID-19.

Principal Amanda Connelly said the pandemic was a challenging time for the school.

“We turned on a dime to best meet the needs of our learners and the expectations of our families,” Ms Connelly said.

“I saw my staff, many of whom I didn’t know well, shine. I am beyond grateful that the needs of students were met by the most dedicated educators I have ever worked with in my 30-year career.”

Ms Connelly said a proper “birthday bash” was an opportunity to celebrate what the school had achieved, while also outlining her vision for its future.

“My vision was clear from the onset; this school would be a student-centred primary school,” she said.

“This school in the heart of Parramatta would offer a caring and nurturing environment focused on its learners.

“Our school would be filled with teachers and administrative staff who prioritised the wholistic needs of children, young learners aged between four and 13, regardless of the students age, capabilities or standing.

“We have hand-selected the best teachers, support and administrative staff from across the state and I know this has been the key to our success.

“There is something special, almost magical about a foundation school. There is an edginess to them, an ability to harness the greatness of the staff and grow with their collective vision without the weight of old time, past traditions.”

‘Bayanami’ means “to learn” in the Dharug language, and the birthday celebrations paid homage to the local Aboriginal people.

Dharug Elder, Julie Jones, opened proceedings with a traditional Welcome to Country followed by a smoking ceremony.

“We are on our country, the country of our mothers and fathers, grandfathers and grandmothers and our ancestors who have walked this land since the creation of the very first sunrise,” she said.

“Our people are still here, singing, dancing, sharing our culture. And we love coming out to celebrate anniversaries like the fifth anniversary of your school on our beautiful country.

“We go through the smoke to cleanse our spirit; to cleanse country; to take away the yucky things we might be feeling and come out the other side of the smoke and hand our problems to the ancestors so we can go on and have a really good day.”

The Jannawi Dance Clan performed traditional dances that drew on the Parramatta River as a key ‘songline’ for both the Dharug people and the eel and other totem animals of the region.

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