Students gather for cultural connection
Connection to country, connection to community and connection to culture – these were the themes of the first annual cultural day for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and their families in the southern Canberra region.
St Mary MacKillop College Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Contact Teacher, Jeremy Margosis, said what had begun as a small idea quickly bloomed into a vibrant event.
“It actually started when me and another teacher, Sharee Thomas from St Francis of Assisi, were talking about how Aboriginal students could connect more,” he explained.
“We planned to send our kids to their school to run an indigenous game, and it kind of got out of hand really quickly – in a good way. We thought why not invite some other schools? Then within the space of a month we had booked the Boomanulla oval, we had sponsors, and we had sporting teams and cultural events and half of Canberra was coming!”
While this year’s event, organised by the Indigenous Education Advisory Committee, was limited to schools in south Canberra, there are plans to expand in the future.
“We had just under 400 people, and that was keeping it small,” Mr Margosis said.
“We wanted it to be manageable for the first time. Ideally, down the track we want to invite all the schools within the diocese. The goal eventually is to get everyone coming – no matter what school you are at.”
Mr Margosis said the event offered an opportunity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to connect in an authentic way.
“A lot of schools don’t have the capacity or the knowledge to be able to put on the kind of cultural activities we had on the day,” he said.
“They might only have three indigenous students in their school, so by putting this kind of thing on, everyone gets to experience it.”
Starting with a Welcome to Country and a smoking ceremony, the day featured professional athletes from Canberra Raiders, GWS Giants, Canberra Chill and ACT Brumbies running sports drills and programs.
“We had the Wiradjuri Echoes come along as well, and they provided ocre to paint people up and dance traditional dances,” Mr Margosis said.
“There was another group doing beads and bracelets and a craft activity using sticks to create an echidna. We had Landcare Management with artefacts, flora and fauna and even spear throwing!”
Mr Margosis said the event was an amazing gathering of people making new connections, catching up with old friends and discovering and sharing culture.
“Every single sponsor, every single sporting organisation and every single person who was involved in any way, shape or form have all committed to coming back next year,” he said.
“The buzz has been phenomenal. The kids had the greatest day of their lives, and it has been nothing but positivity.”