Elders join students for Lake Macquarie reconciliation walk

Students from public schools in the Lake Macquarie catchment marked Reconciliation Week with a walk along the lake foreshore.

Students with Aboriginal flags. Students with Aboriginal flags.
Image: Hundreds of students participated in this year's Reconciliation Week walk on the shores of Lake Macquarie.

Hundreds of students from schools across Lake Macquarie, on Awabakal Country, joined together at Rathmines on Thursday to mark Reconciliation Week.

More than 1500 students walked across the lake’s foreshore, or ‘derah-bambah’, which means ‘rising ground’.

Proud Aboriginal Elder and Kamilaroi Wailwan woman Aunty Jill Jessop was among those in attendance and told ‘The Newcastle Herald’ she was enormously proud of the students.

“It has been the most wonderful thing that’s happened in this area," she said.

“It’s just all that learning and for them to understand what reconciliation is all about. All the Elders are so proud.”

The walk was started three years ago by Toronto Public School Principal Kim Witt, and now involves a half-dozen public schools in the Lake Macquarie catchment.

Coal Point Public School captains Ava Dean and Nicholas Kagen told the Herald they were proud to be leading their school in the walk.

“It’s really cool how we all get together in the one place for reconciliation and respect the Aboriginal people,” Ava said.

Nicholas said he enjoyed the smoking ceremony before gathering at the park for a Welcome to Country in language, and dance performances from Hunter Sports High School students.

“It was a way of washing the evil spirits away and cleansing us before coming together,” he said.

Students with painted faces. Students with painted faces.
Image: Some Lake Macquarie students painted their faces and wore specially designed T-shirts.

Students come together

At Berkeley in the Illawarra, local public schools came together for a Reconciliation Walk as part of the local ‘community of practice’, called Ngalambay or ‘ripple’ in the Dharawal language.

The schools included Berkeley, Berkeley West, Warrawong Lake Heights, Port Kembla and Cringila, with the support of the Juborsay Aboriginal Education Consultative Group.

Berkeley Public School teacher Amber Quintal, a Ngunnawal woman, told the ‘Illawarra Mercury’ that Reconciliation Week was an opportunity to learn the rich culture of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, as well as reflect on the past and how to move forward.

“It’s a way that we can acknowledge and pay our respects to First Nations communities,” Ms Quintal said.

Students and a teacher sitting at a table painting. Students and a teacher sitting at a table painting.
Image: Teacher Beth Cameron with Telarah Public School Preschool students Harper, Danny, Elley, Emily and Jarahkai.

Connection to Country

Children at Telarah Public School Preschool today learned about Connection to Country and the story of Tiddilik the thirsty frog, with a visit from Murrook Cultural Centre.

Preschool teacher Beth Cameron said about 80 preschoolers took part in National Reconciliation Week activities over the past five days, which including making art and reading books including ‘Sorry Sorry’ by Anne Kerr.

“After reading this story with the children we discuss getting along, being respectful, treating each other fairly, how to share and what it means to care,” Ms Cameron said.

The preschool has 15 Aboriginal students enrolled and has developed a close partnership with Murrook Cultural Centre members, who visit fortnightly.

The centre’s preschool program coordinator and Wiradjuri and Weilwan woman Cree Welsh said she had been speaking with children in recent weeks about Tiddilik and messages the story conveyed about the importance of water resources, caring for the environment and listening to parents and each other.

She spoke to children on Friday about a rock at Wollombi in the shape of Tiddilik, painted their faces with ochre and helped them use clapping sticks, paint frogs onto rocks and sing.

“Early childhood is where it starts,” she said. “We teach them the importance of culture so they can pass it on.”

The Early Years Learning Framework emphasises the importance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge and perspectives for young learners.

“Embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives in all educators’ philosophy and practice is a key tool to advance Reconciliation,” the framework says.

Ms Camerson said exploring reconciliation in early childhood education was an important part of children becoming culturally competent, just like recognising and supporting diversity.

“It’s the foundation for further learning and further thinking and raises awareness through the whole family,” she said.

A student with the Aboriginal flag painted on their hand. A student with the Aboriginal flag painted on their hand.
Image: A Lansvale Public School Preschool student with the Aboriginal flag painted on their hand.

Looking after land

At Lansvale Public School Preschool children participated in activities including saying an Acknowledgement of Country in Chinese and Vietnamese, discussing their commitment to looking after the land, animals and people, and making art.

Award-winning assistant principal preschool Lien Chai said the participation of the 70 preschoolers across four classes was part of the whole school’s commitment to fostering understanding, respect and appreciation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, as well as their culture, heritage, and knowledge systems.

“We believe reconciliation is a lifelong process that begins with young minds,” Ms Chai said.

“This open and honest environment fosters meaningful conversations, making art, music, and play powerful tools for introducing children to reconciliation.”

Students at Lansvale Public School Preschool participated in an Acknowledgement of Country in multiple languages.

Reconciliation every day

Students in the Macleay Valley, on Dunghutti Country, joined local Aboriginal Elders at Verge Street playing fields for Reconciliation Week activities on Wednesday.

Organised by Aunty Vicki Willoughby and the Macleay Public Schools (MPS), the day included flag raising, speeches, and stalls run by service providers.

Students from 15 Macleay Valley public schools walked through smoke to start the Reconciliation Walk around the playing fields.

There were student performances from Kempsey South, Crescent Head and Aldavilla public schools and from National Aboriginal Sporting Chance Academy students from Melville and Kempsey high schools.

MPS chairperson and Frederickton Public School principal Leanne Parker told the ‘Macleay Argus’ this year’s Reconciliation Week theme, ‘Now More Than Ever’, was an important call to action.  

“In our public schools, we have a unique opportunity to educate, inspire and cultivate a deeper understanding of our shared history and the rich history of our First Nations people,” she said.

“Reconciliation is not just a week from 27 May to 3 June. It is every day. It means active participation from us all.”

  • News
Return to top of page Back to top