Schools reach out on Sorry Day

Across the State, schools and staff marked Sorry Day and reflected on the impact of past practices on our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families.

Image: Airds High School: An art installation outside the school hall.

The colours of the Aboriginal flag adorned Cammeray Public School today as it marked Sorry Day and invited the community to join them in acknowledging the important occasion.

School principal Kerry McConaghy said every one of the school’s 727 children had tied a yellow, red or black ribbons or attached Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags on the school fence to share the day with the community “so they know how we value the day”.

Parents were also invited this morning to tie ribbons after dropping off their children at school.

Ms McConaghy said the school specialist art teacher, Mrs Sharon Fahey and the teacher librarian, Kate Justelius-Wright, had been instrumental in teaching the Sorry Day message by reading the book, Sorry, Sorry by Anne Kerr and Sorry Day by Coral Vass, and discussing the story across all year groups.

“Hanging the ribbons is a way of us being visual about what we have been learning, saying we are sorry and sharing that we are together with our community,” Ms McConaghy said.

The Sorry Day events marks the beginning of the school’s celebrations for Reconciliation Week, which officially starts tomorrow.

National Sorry Day remembers and commemorates the Stolen Generations and the Survivors and reflects on how the wider community can share in the healing process.

The inaugural National Sorry Day was held on 26 May 1998, a year after the Bringing Them Home report was published.

Ms McConaghy said Cammeray Public, which stands on Cammeraygal Country, had a strong focus on inclusion and had identified Aboriginal literature as a way of promoting equity.

When creating the school’s latest Strategic Plan, they had realised only 1.5 per cent of books in the school library were by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) authors.

“Having identified that, we have been more conscious about the books we are purchasing and now have 20 per cent of our quality literature collection by ATSI writers,” Ms McConaghy said.

“This is something we are proud of and will continue to build on.”

Image: The art of Sorry: Cammeray Public School Year 3 students created Sorry Day artworks today.

Department of Education Secretary Georgina Harrisson said Sorry Day was also a day for recognising the impact of past policies had on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and families.

“Until as recently as 1972, official policies and practices of excluding Aboriginal students meant many were denied the education all other children in NSW were entitled to,” Ms Harrisson said.

“We recognise that the consequences of these practices have rippled through generations. And while policies have changed, there is still work to be done to ensure all our learners have access to quality education.

“I am committed to working out how we can strengthen our NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group (AECG) partnership to achieve better outcomes for all.”

Airds High School, on Dharawal Land, hosted a ‘Sorry Day Assembly’ as a coming together of all stakeholders of the culturally diverse and rich community.

The assembly included a moving speech by school Aboriginal Education Officer Michael Roberts, who for the first time publicly, shared his own traumas linked to the Stolen Generations of his family.

“We were moved, touched and inspired by hearing Uncle Mick share his personal story and testimony. We remember, it is through our upset, we will come together to heal and move forward as one,” relieving principal Meg Mitchell said.

“Airds High School believes National Sorry Day is a day to acknowledge the strength of Stolen Generations Survivors and reflect on how we can all play a part in the healing process for Aboriginal people and our nation.”

The school also held a symbolic ceremony with school leaders lighting the perpetual candle and non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students walking together though the hall lighting the pathway as a symbol of unity.

The students also created a symbolic footprint outside the hall as a metaphor for the school walking together and the school also officially opened its Yarning circle to commemorate the Reconciliation Week theme, Being Brave, making change.

Image: Tamworth High School students perform for Sorry Day.

Tamworth High School, on the land of the Kamilaroi people, marked Sorry Day with a special assembly preceded by a smoking ceremony conducted by students.

The assembly heard from local Aboriginal guest speakers, including the daughter of a survivor of the Stolen Generations, and there was a demonstration of Aboriginal dance by students, accompanied by local didgeridoo player Mark Atkins.

Deputy Secretary School Performance Murat Dizdar marked Sorry Day at two Dharug Country schools, Bidwill Public School and Lethbridge Park Public School.

The schools were recently included in the Connected Communities program that brings community closer to the school and emphasises Aboriginal culture to help Aboriginal students reach their learning potential.

Mr Dizdar visited classrooms at both schools and shared a range of activities to learn about Sorry Day such as writing an Acknowledgement of Country and Sorry Day letters.

"Aboriginal people are the world’s oldest living culture and acknowledging, understanding and more importantly, respecting this works towards making a change in the relationships we have with Aboriginal people," he said.

"I visited classrooms at both schools to engage directly with our students and staff as I am committed to improving the educational outcomes and wellbeing of all our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students."

Students at both schools have been learning Dharug their local traditional language and welcomed Mr Dizdar into their classrooms by saying ‘Warami’ which means hello and ‘Yani’ to say goodbye.

At Lethbridge Park Public School students were painting a mural to commemorate Sorry Day and Reconciliation Week.

The mural, designed and painted by students with the help of Trevor Eastwood from Dalmarri, depicts the Nepean river and local tribes along the river bank.

Still a work in progress, the hands on the mural represent the students and their educational journey throughout their life, while it also includes the school’s five totems – snake, Kangaroo, koala, lizard, sugar glider and water dragon.

Image: Murat Dizdar joined students and staff working on an Aboriginal mural at Lethbridge Park Public School.
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