The Northern Illawarra community has gathered in the spirit of national unity on a walk for reconciliation.
A gathering of 1000 people, including over 20 schools, participated in the Aboriginal Education Consultative Group’s community event, carrying flags and banners as they walked proudly from Holy Spirit College to Bellambi Public School.
The president of the Northern Illawarra AECG, Julie Street Smith, is committed to advancing the community’s reconciliation process.
“By walking together, we wanted to show the world that we can work together, we can be together, we are not that different from each other. We can all walk as one,” she said.
“When Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people start to build important relationships, it builds a better community.”
The community walk provided an opportunity for non-Indigenous students to form connections with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, allowing all participants to develop a deeper understanding of each other.
“Throughout the walk, there was a lot of different people of all ages, and they were all yarning amongst themselves,” Ms Smith said.
“It is a special event that can break barriers in a gentle and non-confrontational way where there are no expectations of the students.
“When people are young, they develop strong bonds that can form their views on other races, and these friendships can last the rest of their lives.”
The opening ceremony included a traditional performance and guest speakers who commemorated the 25th anniversary of the 1992 High Court Mabo decision, and the 50th anniversary of the 1967 referendum.
The principal of Bulli High School, Chris Gregory, said cultural awareness was a significant part of Australia’s journey for reconciliation.
“The event provides a real sense of community and is a valuable experience for all students to share, value and respect,” Ms Gregory said.
Ms Smith is optimistic that the community event will leave an impression on all participants, and promote further actions which can benefit the Northern Illawarra.
“I would love to see that reconciliation is not limited to one week, and that it is a process which is occurring in our community all the time,” she said.
For information on how you can further Australia’s reconciliation process, visit the Creative Spirits website.