Why Acknowledge?

Last week we recognised and celebrated two important dates - Sorry Day, followed by an event filled Reconciliation Week. As was reported in last week's Calling, student participation in these events was high.

How we mark our value in these dates and their meaning, should not be limited to one week in the year. As an inclusive community, if we are true to this, we recognise the place of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, their histories and identities, in the life of our College daily. We should do this through our teaching and learning, in our ceremonies and rituals and it should be visible to visitors of the College.

The Acknowledgment of Country is one of these important actions, and a part of any ceremony at the College. The Acknowledgment of Country involves acknowledging the original Indigenous custodians of the land and their long and continuing relationship with their country. It is a way of showing awareness of, and respect for the original Indigenous custodians of the land on which we gather. It should not be seen as onerous task, nor something we become apathetic about. The acknowledgment is just one of many symbols that we use within the College to mark the value we place on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander identity, as something that is part of who we are. An Acknowledgment of Country at an ANZAC liturgy might reflect on the ancestors of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and Indigenous soldiers who have fought for Country, here and abroad. At a College Leaders' Induction Mass we may reflect on the wisdom of past Indigenous elders and leaders, and at an Academic Awards assembly we might reflect on the learning that has taken place on the traditional grounds on which we have gathered, for thousands of years before us. This is where we can make connections and where we recognise similarities in spirituality and beliefs, towards reconciliation. We wouldn't fly the Australian flag if we didn't believe it represented us. Just as when we fly the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags, it tells the outside community that this is who we are and that it is important to us.

A common criticism of these gestures are that they do nothing to practically address Indigenous disadvantage. This takes us to what it really means to acknowledge and recognise - such symbolic gestures take into account the fundamental connection between dispossession and disadvantage, and the ongoing effects of colonisation. These symbols and practices promote awareness and respect for Indigenous culture, as part of ending the history of silence and exclusion that has resulted in Indigenous disadvantage today. This is where reconciliation can start in our community.

Mr Luke Royes - Head of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education