Reconciliation and the importance of First Nations History and Culture

Tuesday, 13 June 2023

Reconciliation in schools supports schools across Australia to develop environments that foster a higher level of knowledge and pride in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, cultures and contributions.

At Cornerstone College, our vision for reconciliation is to build positive relationships and understanding between all members of our community so they can continue to be ambassadors beyond their College life.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are the original Custodians of the Land and our histories, cultures and identities are strongly linked to the First Australians. Cornerstone College promotes the caring for and valuing of all people in a Christian context. It is important to our College community that we spend time reflecting on the Aboriginal history and continuing living Peramangk culture in Mount Barker. This is especially important, as our College is built on significant Peramangk Country.

We strive to continually be a leader in the space of reconciliation and educate our young people and our staff on the importance of the history and culture of our First Nations people.

Key Initiatives include:

  • First Nations Focus Group for staff and students who provide ongoing Leadership
  • First Nations Focus Week and Celebration Day
  • Celebrating National Reconciliation Week
  • Year 7 Immersion Day focusing on First Nations culture
  • The annual development and publishing of an authentic Reconciliation Action Plan which is celebrated each year
  • The Smoking Ceremony as part of our Year 9 Journey Evening
  • A First Nations focus within our Year 8 Camp Week
  • Planning and development of an Indigenous Garden in partnership with Mount Barker Council
  • Ongoing professional development for staff in partnership with Australians Together
  • Embedding First Nations history and culture throughout our curriculum

The 2022 Year 12 Legacy class working in partnership with Cedric Varcoe, who is a Ngarrindjeri man, to deepen their understanding of Aboriginal culture as they painted the mural in Cibo Plaza. This mural represents a physical map of the Cornerstone College campus, embedded in Peramangk country, and intertwined with the College’s values.

During Weeks 4 and 5 (First Nations Focus Week and National Reconciliation Week) we have and will continue to share stories and messages from our community. I would like to share with you some of the messages shared with our students and staff from Year 11 student Jennifer Hewitt who is a proud Adnyamathanha and Ngarrindjeri woman who is passionate about teaching, sharing and telling the stories of her people:

“Why is it important to listen and learn from the stories of Aboriginal people? I’ve heard it before and will expect to hear it again ‘I wasn’t here when Australia was colonised’, ‘it wasn’t me who invaded Australia’, ‘I’m not even from here it has nothing to do with me’. Well to that I say, you are here now and it’s important to listen to the stories of Aboriginal people because we need to know where we have come from to know where we are going. Lots of people have no idea what happened to Aboriginal people and the true history of our country. I don’t call that racism or not caring, I call that uneducated and uninterested. You may not know much, I’m still learning too, but the more I know the more I can tell, the more I can teach and educate those who don’t know.
If I had one life goal, it would be for us all to be united. We cannot change the past but we can shape the future. Will you sit there and let the oldest living culture get pushed under the rug and taken from Aboriginal people to this day? I ask you this, why should Aboriginal people have to fight for their own country? To fight for their voices to be heard? And to fight for the rights they deserve to be just given to them like everyone else.
I have many privileges. I speak and write common English. I go to a wealthy private school and have a loving family. But I also have disadvantages. I don’t speak any of my home language and was disconnected to my culture for years. I too had little idea of what my people had gone through. I lived through racism and had a rough childhood but I didn’t fully understand the history of my people. As I learnt more, my passion to close the gap and teach people about my culture became stronger. It soon became something I could talk about for hours and I hope that is the case for you too. I hope that you can learn and come to understand the strength and determination my people have. I hope that we can work together in reconciliation, to teach and learn about the history of the county many of us call home, and make it a better place for us all.”

A message from our First Nations Focus Group

“The ongoing learning around First Nations history and living culture has become an integral part of who we are at Cornerstone College and we feel privileged to have the support of Senior Leadership and the wider community. It is our responsibility as Australians and as educators for all young people including our First Nations students, to bring awareness and respect to our ongoing journey. Such a great opportunity to move towards a better, more united future.”

"Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen." - 1 John 4:20

Dale Hoffman 
Acting Deputy Principal