Year 11 students were given a moving introduction to Reconciliation Week at Monday’s assembly with a performance by Kinja at the Ulumbarra Theatre.

Kinja is made up of didgeridoo player Uncle Ron Murray and his partner Sarah James on fiddle and vocals. Ron is a descendent of the Wamba Wamba tribe (Swan Hill) while Sarah is of Scottish heritage. Ron and Sarah feel that playing together is their special contribution to reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous people in this country.

In Ron’s address to the students he talked about his childhood on the land, his work with troubled youth, and his family’s connection to Sir Doug Nicholls, who was rejected by the Carlton Football Club in the 1920s, but went on to become Governor of South Australia. Ron played didgeridoo at last week’s sorry ceremony where the club apologised for its treatment of Nicholls.

Uncle Ron urged students to embrace Reconciliation Week. “Talk to an Aboriginal person,” he said, “ask them about their experiences.”

On Tuesday BSSC students and others from regional schools gathered together in Ulumbarra to witness a traditional smoking ceremony and attend a repeat of the gala opening performance of Ulumbarra – Gather Together narrated by respected aboriginal elder and acclaimed grandfather of indigenous theatre, Uncle Jack Charles. Gather Together tells the story of the Dja Dja Wurrung in this region.

Thursday saw BSSC students join leaders from both Indigenous and non-Indigenous organisations in a forum that examined the state of reconciliation in the Bendigo region.
Organised by the Bendigo Reconciliation Group, the forum looked at how we are really progressing when it comes to reconciliation in Bendigo.

Director of Strategy and Innovation at St Luke’s Anglicare, John Bonnice, said that a lot of things have changed in the past 30 years, but the forum attempted to reflect on the depth of the reconciliation that is occuring.

“There was plenty of honest feedback and people sharing their personal journeys of what it’s like to be an Aboriginal person in Bendigo. Things have improved, but there’s still a lot of work to do to really build reconciliation.”

In the afternoon, students attended a workshop facilitated by Mr Bonnice and Stephanie Armstrong from the Bendigo Reconciliation Group for a discussion around cultural safety and how it applies to BSSC.

Indigenous student Samuel Derosa was heartened by the afternoon’s conversations.

“Bendigo Senior Secondary College has a broad understanding of the reconciliation that’s in process at the moment,” Samuel said. “And the college intends to take that further, which is really positive to see.

“The forum today showed that the wider community is also behind this and is committed to closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. As an Indigenous student, that really gives me hope for the future.”

BSSC’s Indigenous Programs Coordinator Sally Fleming said the Reconciliation Week celebration is an important event in the Bendigo Senior Secondary College calendar.

“It builds visible indigenous culture at BSSC, and this helps our students feel comfortable and proud of their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage.  It’s a great opportunity for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians to celebrate reconciliation and have a conversation about what it means for all of us.”