“Persons always live in relationship. We come from others, we belong to others, and our lives are enlarged by encounter with others” Pope Francis- Lumen Fidei Light of Faith.

Last Friday after two years, we had a special sending off ritual for our first interstate immersion experience to Daly River in the Northern Territory with the Nauiyu Community. Sixteen Year 9 students applied to take part in the immersion and committed to a series of preparation sessions together with staff Luke Parsons and Annalee McKew.

The purpose of an immersion is to provide students with a profound experience of service and exposure to culture on a deep level. To "immerse" means to plunge into; to be involved deeply. It requires being involved with another culture for a length of time and being engaged in service activities that will allow for a more complete understanding of cultural differences and similarities and how the ‘other’ lives. To do so we need to disconnect and retreat from the daily activities and distractions of our usual existence and place ourselves at the service of others.

It requires participants to travel not as a tourist but as a guest – one who steps out of the ordinary into active anticipation, into encountering difference, and welcomes moments that broaden and deepen an appreciation of the world.

This immersion experience complements our St Joseph’s Touchstones and Reconciliation Action Plan commitments to build:

Relationships around the School

Collaborate on projects that visibly and authentically embed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures in learning programs and the physical environment. Through this culture of collaboration across the school and with the community, we commit to creating an environment where young people, staff and community members acknowledge, respect and experience connection to the First Australians.

Opportunities with the Community

We commit to learning more about the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, cultures and contributions of the Country on which we live, work, learn and play, by working with the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community to learn about events of historical and cultural significance and visit appropriate sites.

Relationships with the Community

We will develop our everyday program to ensure it provides students with explicit opportunities to build their knowledge and understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, within and beyond the classroom. This commitment extends to the inclusion of cultural competence principles, fostered in teachers and educators, in the ethos of our classrooms and across our school.

Our 2023 Daly River Immersion team are currently on day 6 of their 9-day immersion.

On arrival into Darwin they took part in a Welcome to Country ceremony and cultural awareness session at Nungalinya College with Traditional Owners.

The following day they journeyed via the historic Adelaide River War Cemetery to set up camp at Banyan Farm followed by an introduction to the Nauiyu community at 5.00pm Mass at St Francis Church. Over the next few days, students will be participating in service learning opportunities through school-based activities at St Francis Xavier Catholic School coordinated by former Westcourt teacher Rebecca Westwood.

“Our first day at the school was really busy as we helped to learn about and take part in a range of engaging activities with the students.”

“We enjoyed meeting Miriam Rose this afternoon, listening to her and meeting some of the local community”.

“We had a baptism into country at the river crossing”.

During the first week of Term 4, other groups of Year 9 students will experience their own journey to the heart of our country on the Central Australia experience, where The Uluru Statement from the Heart was formed. We are called to listen to the voices who gathered at the 2017 National Constitutional Convention where we were invited to, ‘walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future.’ Our St Joseph’s Community was given the opportunity to sign a copy of the statement during Reconciliation week, which is displayed in our staffroom.

We seek constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country. When we have power over our destiny our children will flourish. They will walk in two worlds and their culture will be a gift to their country. We call for the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution. Makarrata is the culmination of our agenda: the coming together after a struggle. It captures our aspirations for a fair and truthful relationship with the people of Australia and a better future for our children based on justice and self-determination. https://ulurustatement.org/the-statement/

Next term we look forward celebrating ‘Koling Wada-ngal Day,’ meaning ‘Let us walk together’ in Wadawurrung language. It is a student led combined Geelong Catholic College initiative in support of celebrating First Nations Peoples and raising awareness of the educational support provided by the ‘Opening the Doors Foundation’. The Foundation is Aboriginal led and listens to the diverse educational needs of Victorian Aboriginal families.

Recently on 24 August, Sue Collins and Ben McDowell accompanied our St Joseph’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, along with over 150 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from Catholic schools across the Archdiocese of Melbourne who came together at the Richmond Football club for Watta Watnanda Day. It celebrated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture through presentations, dialogue and activities. The day was hosted by Luke Murray, Indigenous Community Engagement Manager at Korin Gamadji Institute, and featured presentations by Joel Garner from Port Adelaide Football Club and Linc Yow Yeh from Australian Catholic University.

Mary Malone Director of Identity