5 June 2020
Extract from the Principal’s Assembly
Reconciliation week is always an important period in the Pembroke school calendar. Normally, we would have a carnival of sport to celebrate our engagement with the Indigenous community, and we would invite Indigenous old scholars, family members, elders, seniors and cultural practitioners across different Indigenous groups to come and talk and work with our staff and students. This year, things are a little different – and perhaps the quiet has encouraged an opportunity to think deeply about how it is we might talk about reconciliation.
Reconciliation is about reconciling. This presupposes at some level that you get at the truth of something. When we talk about reconciliation with the Indigenous community, what we are really saying as a School is that we acknowledge and understand the truth of the history of Indigenous people. And the truth is both wonderful and devastating. It is a truth of 60,000 years of habitation in the land that became known as Australia; of many, many different cultures across the country linked together by different trade routes and different needs. It is the truth of hundreds of languages and the most remarkable and sophisticated knowledge system and relationship with the land.
We acknowledge that over 200 years ago the truth of the Indigenous people was interrupted by a completely different knowledge system. As poorly – or as well intentioned as people were – we acknowledge that the result was terrible for Indigenous people.
There is much to be done and there is much that can be done. To our Indigenous students, we as a School feel deeply that the voices of Indigenous Australians be heard, acknowledged and understood. We know it is time for us to listen. Our School wants to listen. Our experiences with Indigenous communities in Marree, in the Northern Territory, and with all of our Indigenous students’ and old scholars’ communities is not about what we are offering Indigenous students alone, it is about each and every one of us listening to these students, hearing them, understanding them and learning from them. This is when attitudes are changed. Our attempts to reconcile are real, they are genuine.
Pembroke aims to offer our students the means to develop a broad and deep knowledge base, thus enabling them to act effectively as well-informed citizens. Indeed, this is the very first of the School’s five Aims. Our Indigenous Education @ Pembroke is a critical part of enacting that aim, for all students.
Uncle Mickey Kumatpi O’Brien, Senior Kaurna Ambassador, visited Pembroke prior to Reconciliation Week 2020 to speak with students and staff, and to perform a traditional smoking ceremony in the R. A. Cook Chapel. He spoke with me about Kaurna traditions and the challenges facing Indigenous people – including the still dramatic gap between the life expectancy, and quality of life, for Indigenous people compared with non-Indigenous Australians. We spoke of the importance of being “In this together” to address this gap, and the importance of us all valuing – and learning from – the world’s oldest living culture. Our conversation, as well as other videos recorded during his visit, form part of our ongoing Indigenous Education @Pembroke resources for students.
The future is bright, it is bright. To reconcile is to build real and lasting relationships, to explore those relationships in real and meaningful ways, to acknowledge the past and to build a positive future.
Pembroke staff and students are active participants in building a positive future for not only our Indigenous students but for us all – one in which we are all enriched by reconciliation and understanding.