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20 Feb 2018

Spotlight On – Wilderness School, SA

Wilderness School is based on Kaurna Country in South Australia and, as part of their Narragunnawali RAP commitments, the school made the decision to fly the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags for the very first time in the school’s 133 years of existence.

The Narragunnawali team had the pleasure of talking with Jane Danvers (Principal), Rosie Broderick (Head of Boarding) and Chloe Montague (student) who all played key roles in the drive to raise the flag.

When asked ‘‘Why now?’’, it was evident that students very much drove the push to expand on what the school was already doing in relation to engaging with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander content in the classroom as well as to give reconciliation a greater, school-wide presence. According to Jane Danvers “There have been things we’ve always done but I think there’s a maturity about the school [now]. We were ready, and the girls were ready. It came from the students’ journey”.

The passion, drive and leadership of the student group, was strongly supported by the school’s staff and wider community. Early conversations and collaborations around reconciliation were sparked after the 2017 captain of the school’s boarding house initiated a reconciliation dinner to share her personal story. The dinner had a meaningful and lasting impact and generated a ripple effect on the wider student group who, and the Head of the Boarding House, Rosie, who, after discussions with school executives, helped develop their Narragunnawali RAP.

The inaugural flag raising ceremony in 2017 involved the whole school, ranging from pre-school children to Year 12 students; teaching and professional support staff; and wider local community members. Kaurna man, Jack Buckskin, led a Welcome to Country ceremony with the support of his young son (see photo).

The flags take a prominent and permanent place in the centre of the school grounds, and have encouraged students to ask more questions about, and develop a stronger sense of respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, cultures and contributions at a local and national level.  

For Chloe, a student leader, “flying the Aboriginal flag created a lot of pride for the school and for myself. As it hadn't been flown before, being one of the people to help make that happen meant a lot.”

Of course, flying the flag is only the beginning. The school has now embarked on extending its actions toward reconciliation, with the goal of expanding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, cultures and perspectives across all subject areas, as well as fostering immersive cultural experiences for all students being guided by local Elders. Staff are committed to educating and challenging themselves in order to support their students, and to move Australia forward with a common purpose – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians – together. As the school’s leader, Jane sees this as critical to reconciliation: “that’s how we’re going to get a reconciled nation. Starting from the youngest within the school, right through to the teachers.”