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25 June 2013
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Melbourne's Geelong headed into Deakin University's Institute of Koorie Education's Mitchell Family Performance Space last week (Friday 21 June) to build their own educational dream.
Djaambi Day, planned around the 2013 NAIDOC theme – We Value the Vision: Yirrkala Bark Petitions 1963 – exposed the students to the Institute’s unique educational space within the University campus at Waurn Ponds.
The Yirrkala Bark Petitions are significant in Australian history, and it is now 50 years since the Yolngu people of Yirrkala in northeast Arnhem Land sent two bark petitions to the Australian House of Representatives protesting against the granting of mining rights over a considerable area of traditional land.
The petitions were the first documents recognised by the Commonwealth Parliament and as a result recognition of Aboriginal people in Australian law. They acted as a catalyst for change.
Director of the Institute, Professor Wendy Brabham said in much the same way as the petitions acted as a catalyst for change 50 years ago, it was hoped by coming to the Institute the day would act as a catalyst for change within the students.
“The day is designed to give the students an experience of an Aboriginal space in a university,” she said.
“Who knows the day may just trigger the first thought that coming to university is possible for me and doing a degree is something I can do be it here at the Institute or through another University.“It may be the dream they hold onto to through their schooling.”
Stephen Elder, Executive Director of Catholic Education from the Catholic Education Office Melbourne said the Djaambi Day program had been initiated by the office in 2004 to nurture the students’ connection with their culture and the importance of education.
“We found that our schools were doing well with the educational aspect but needed assistance in the provision of cultural support,” he said.
“Without that the students felt culturally isolated in terms of their identity.
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples tend to be stereotyped on their appearance and one of the things that ate away at many of our students is that they didn’t fit the stereotype.
“After attending Djaambi Day their self-esteem went up because they gained a sense of belonging after meeting other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.”
Mr Elder said the office had moved the day from Narana Creations at Grovedale to the Institute to expose students the pathways they could follow when they finished year 12.
“The ultimate aim of our work is for the students to finish Year 12 and go onto further education,” he said.
“They get to see a university and realise it’s not all that scary.
“About 20 years ago we would have three or four students completing Year 12, last year we had 28.
“You have to remember that many are the first in their family to achieve this.”
Further informationThe initial Geelong cluster has expanded to include schools from Altona North, Bacchus Marsh, Lara, Melton and Werribee.
Deakin Media Relations
03 9246 8221/ 0422 005 485
Video: Some highlights of the day.
Students sign a commemorative bark petition.
A didgeridoo player provides some music.
Students participate in a show-off dance.