Special guests, students and staff packed out the Ulumbarra Plaza at lunchtime today to enjoy a free barbeque, hot chocolates and macadamia biscuits—all to recognise and celebrate National Reconciliation Week.

Students were asked, what does reconciliation mean to you?

“It means to make up for problems of the past—and meet everyone who’s been affected on level ground,” Sally said.

“It’s about acknowledging the significance of Aboriginal people,” said Mustafa. “Yes, and their ownership of the land that we live on,” Jack added.

Tempany, who is of the Palawa clans, said “It’s about me being able to show how far I’ve come in learning about my culture and that I’m now communicating to others the importance of recognition and care for our culture.”

Photos of well-known and much admired Indigenous people were carried amongst the crowd and students had the opportunity to wear a possum skin cloak, to grind wattle seeds with ancient traditional grinding stones, to see and hold green-stone axe heads and to interact with the many local Aboriginal people who took the time to share in the event.

Proud Gudjamara/Wiradjuri/Yorta Yorta man, Simon, draped a large and magnificently etched possum skin coat around the shoulders of many students and staff. Its incredible warmth quickly took the edge off the freezing day and confirmed how effectively the First Australians managed the winter months.

When asked what he was most proud of, Simon replied: “To be part of the oldest living culture in the world—the ones who invented bread-making and who have been here for much, much longer than we had realised—maybe even more than 120,000 years.”

Cathy and Paul Haw brought a selection of artifacts for students to handle. They collect implements and tools donated mostly by farmers in the Boort region when they move away or off their farms.

“Paul has been made custodian of this collection by one of the local elders,” Cathy explained.

BSSC Alumni, Darcy McGauley, a local Aboriginal Liaison Officer for Victoria Police, joined the gathering and spoke of the critical need for stability for Indigenous youth who end up in the justice system.

“Since I started in this role, I’ve been involved with re-engaging around 15 young people with school,” he said. “It’s been very satisfying.”

Although the sausages and veggie burgers cooked by local Rotarians were soon devoured, students, staff and special guests stayed in the plaza, mingling and—hopefully—showing how to ‘meet on level ground’.

Reconciliation Week activities will continue tomorrow with a special free screening of Gurrumul in the BSSC Language Centre as part of the Central Victorian Indigenous Film Festival.

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