Spotlight On – St Brendan’s Catholic Primary School, Annandale
Nestled in the vibrant and leafy streets of Annandale in Sydney’s Inner West, St Brendan’s Catholic Primary School is a small school of 230 students. The school’s values of truth, belonging, success and relationships have guided their vision for reconciliation as a dedicated group of parents, teachers and community members worked together to develop the school’s first Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP). The RAP was launched with an energetic celebration on 6 April 2016, 12 months after the first RAP working group meeting.
The initial drive to develop a RAP for St Brendan’s came from a parent, Francisca Peña, whose two children attend the school. “I had worked in organisations that had RAPs and I also personally acknowledged that I lived in this amazing place and I didn’t know enough about the history. I thought if this knowledge gap exists for adults in this country, what is happening with our children?” Francisca reflected. It was this reflection that moved her to reach out to Narragunnawali and find out about RAPs for schools.
Armed with more information on how Narragunnawali can guide schools through
the RAP development and implementation process, Francisca approached school
executive to encourage St Brendan’s to develop a RAP. The idea was wholly
supported by the school Principal, Louise Maguire, and a working group consisting
of Louise, two teachers, Francisca and another parent, Fiona McGrath, was
For the newly formed working group, ensuring
the RAP included Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices was imperative. “Being
a school with no Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander students, our challenge
was to find an Indigenous representative for the working group, so we reached out to
our local council [Leichhardt] and the Community Development Officer, Aboriginal
Programs, Deborah Lennis, was more than happy to guide us and join the group”
Momentum built very quickly from this
point, and 12 months on from beginning the process, the changes in the
classroom and around the school are substantial. Staff and students are
inspired by what they have learnt so far and conversations about reconciliation
can be regularly heard in hallways. Year 2 teacher, Donna Quilty, worked with
her colleagues to reflect on how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
histories and cultures were being taught and compile a list of Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander resources for staff. Donna, originally from Ireland,
said there was a huge appetite from all teachers for classroom appropriate
resources. “I didn’t have a lot of background at all, so it was huge for me—but
even the teachers from Australia really wanted to know a lot more,” Donna said.
As a celebration of the work that has been done to this point, and to take stock of the work still to do, St Brendan’s held a special event to launch their RAP in April. Attendees were welcomed to Gadigal Country by Uncle Raymond Davison before being addressed by prominent Wiradjuri man and journalist Stan Grant and Mayor Darcy Byrne of Leichhardt Municipal Council. The event included performances by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from surrounding catholic schools and the St Brendan’s choir, a smoking ceremony conducted by Uncle Max Eulo and a flag raising ceremony. The success of the St Brendan’s RAP launch demonstrated the community’s commitment to reconciliation, understanding that building relationships takes time and the respect held for Australia’s First Peoples.