Pandemic fails to halt reconciliation journey

Seven schools in the Illawarra have created a virtual walk to celebrate Reconciliation Week, which starts today.

Image: Bellambi Public students perform a female cleansing dance at Bellambi Point.

Bellambi Public School has refused to let the COVID pandemic halt its march toward reconciliation.

The school normally hosts an annual Walk for Reconciliation that attracts more than 2000 people.

However last year due to pandemic restrictions the walk could not go ahead and instead the school crated a virtual choir of the students and staff singing We Are Australian.

Bellambi Public relieving principal Koby Miller said while schools were back to normal it was felt there was too much risk in holding the physical march this year.

Instead inspired by last year’s video, the school had created a virtual Reconciliation Walk with seven local schools.

“We had to think creatively and innovate to ensure we continue to celebrate reconciliation,” Mrs Miller said.

Like the physical walk, the virtual event began at Bellambi Point – a significant site in the Illawarra for local Aboriginal people.

Local Aboriginal Elders Aunty Sharralyn Robinson and Uncle Richard Archibald host the Walk for Reconciliation video.

In the video Aunty Sharralyn says reconciliation is “not just a word”.

“For me reconciliation has great meaning and this year’s theme action is really important because for me it’s about … all of us coming together and walking and working as one,” she says.

During the virtual walk the viewer travels 81.1 kilometres, which Mrs Miller pointed out would take 17 hours and 14 minutes to walk.

The virtual walk travels from Bellambi Point to Helensburgh Public, Waniora Public, Tarrawanna Public, Keiraville Public, Smith Hills High, Lindsay Park Public and Mount St Thomas Public before heading back to Bellambi Point.

Mrs Miller said at each stop the students and the schools demonstrated how they were putting reconciliation into action.

The virtual walk features Aboriginal dance by Bellambi Public girls and boys dance troupes and student tours of Aboriginal bush tucker gardens, and students and staff discussing the meaning of reconciliation.

“We all have a role to play when it comes to reconciliation, and in playing our part we collectively build relationships and communities that value Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, histories, futures and culture,” Mrs Miller said.

Students at Bellambi Public watched the virtual walk today and used it as a catalyst for class discussion about the meaning of reconciliation.

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