For our Elders
This year NAIDOC Week coincided with the first week of the school holidays, so the community of St Joseph’s College, Lochinvar anticipated the occasion and celebrated one week early.
What a wonderful celebration it was! The Indigenous students prepared and conducted the program that centred on the theme, For Our Elders. They received great support from the Indigenous Staff and members of the local Aboriginal community.
Sisters from the local Josephite community were among the guests. They are always happy to accept invitations from the College to attend significant celebrations. This was especially so for the NAIDOC commemoration.
The sound of the didgeridoos and clap sticks heralded the start of proceedings as some students accompanied three local Aboriginal Elders to their seats.
All were welcomed to the land of the Wonnarua people, the traditional custodians of the land on which the College is built.
One feature of the ceremony was a Q and A session where a group of students posed questions to Aunty Louise Campbell who was an ex-student at St Joseph’s, about the role of Elders. She answered that Elders are very significant people. They are respected as cultural knowledge holders, trailblazers, nurturers, advocates, teachers, survivors, leaders, hard workers and our loved ones.
Those present enjoyed the performance of an Aboriginal dance by a group of students and the presentation of Psalm 23 - Aboriginal style by Uncle Rev Ron Williams that began -
My big fella boss up in the sky is like the father Emu.
He will always look after me and take me to green grass
and lead me to where the water holes are full and fresh all the time.
Highlight of the ceremony was the return of former student Finnian Johnson from the 2019 HSC class. Finnian is now a Country songwriter/singer and guitarist, having appeared on The Voice and at the Tamworth Country Music festival. The assembly listened intently as Finnian spoke of his experience as an Indigenous student at St Joseph’s. He paid tribute to his family and friends who have helped him along the way. He then delighted his audience by singing two of his own songs.
The service ended, as it had begun, with the sound of the didgeridoo as player and dance group departed the hall.
Guests enjoyed a morning tea in the Yalawa Centre where the treats has a distinct Indigenous flavour. All present declared, the ceremony was a wonderful way to celebrate the oldest, continuous living cultures on earth.