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18 Dec 2019

Spotlight On – Narragunnawali Awards 2019 Winners!


Last month we were excited to celebrate the Narragunnawali Awards 2019. Held biennially, the Narragunnawali Awards represent Australia’s first and only national awards program for reconciliation in schools and early learning services.

The Awards have been designed to recognise and celebrate educational environments – across the Government, Catholic and Independent sectors – that have implemented outstanding and genuine reconciliation initiatives.

This year’s Finalists – Barefoot Early Childhood, Forbes Preschool, Maclean High School, Moolap Primary School and Tamborine Mountain State School – were acknowledged for the ways in which they are building relationships, strengthening respect, and providing meaningful opportunities in the classroom, around the school or early learning service, and with local communities.

As part of this year’s Narragunnawali Awards celebrations, representatives from each Finalist school and early learning service headed to Canberra for a workshop facilitated by the Narragunnawali team at the Yarramundi Cultural Centre. This was an opportunity for Finalists to connect with each other and the Narragunnawali team; explore personal meanings and measures of reconciliation; reflect on their journeys to date; and inspire some strong next steps. The workshop focused on both ‘talking’ and ‘walking’ reconciliation, and included rich conversations and activities about  truth-telling in education settings; the centrality and complexity of relationship-building; approaches to tackling tokenism; and the importance of critically evaluating resources, asking powerful questions, and engaging in ongoing  learning, unlearning and/or relearning processes.

A live scribed documentation of the conversations shared during the workshop was captured by artist Devon Bunce from Digital Storytellers:


That evening, the Awards Presentation Event was held at the National Arboretum, which beautifully showcased Ngunnawal Country. The event was attended by representatives from right across the education sector. Senior Ngunnawal Elder Aunty Agnes Shea Welcomed us to Country, and we heard from Reconciliation Australia Co-Chairs Tom Calma and Melinda Cilento and Executive Officer of the BHP Foundation, James Ensor.

“Our educational institutions have a very important role in advancing reconciliation.” Co-Chairs Professor Tom Calma and Melinda Cilento address the audience at the Narragunnawali Awards 2019. 

“Too many generations of Australians have grown up without an understanding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and a very limited awareness of the true histories of Australia. The Narragunnawali program is trying to change this, and that is why we are so proud to support this program.” James Ensor – Executive Director, BHP Foundation

Narragunnawali Awards Judges Geraldine Atkinson, Sharon Davis, and Professor Peter Buckskin finally presented the Awards to Forbes Preschool (Early Learning category Winner) and Maclean High School (Schools category Winner) – each have won a $10,000 contribution towards a reconciliation project in their school and early learning service.

Maclean High School (NSW) was recognised for developing strong, longstanding and ongoing relationships with their local community, which has enabled respectful consultation and collaboration with local Elders and the Aboriginal Community to implement strong cross-curricula learning projects with a focus on local perspectives. The school has fostered positive leadership opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, as well as learning opportunities for all staff and students.

Maclean High School Deputy Principal, Liza Hamilton, acknowledged the importance of reconciliation in education at the awards night, “If everyone in Australia left their footprints wherever they go with good thoughts and experienced perspective from everyone, this country will really turn for the better and that is something I really believe in.”

Forbes Preschool (NSW) were awarded winners of the early learning category in recognition of their strong equality and equity-based approach to reconciliation, as well as a genuine commitment to cultural competence and community relationship-building to advance reconciliation progress. The service has strong relationships with community both within and beyond the service gates, and has shown a strong commitment to reconciliation not only while formal education/care sessions are in place but also ‘after hours.’ Forbes Preschool has reported a significant increase in its Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family enrolments as a result of its reconciliation activities.

When accepting the Narragunnawali Award, Director of Forbes Preschool, Amy Shine, reflected, “…it is not a policy that we have written or a statement that is up on our wall, it is just who we are and who our community is.”

Reconciliation Australia also congratulates the Finalists in each category who were: Barefoot Early Childhood (QLD), Tamborine Mountain State School (QLD) and Moolap Primary School (VIC).

You can watch the full Awards presentation event on Reconciliation Australia's Facebook page