Gawura celebrates NAIDOC Week

Gawura / 21 June 2012

While the rest of Sydney is getting prepped for NAIDOC* Week celebrations – a time to revel in the richness of history and culture of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders – St Andrew’s began their celebrations a week early. Making sure that school holidays didn’t get in the way of our festivities, our Gawura campus and the wider SACS community (including a number of corporate and foundation-based Gawura donors) gathered in the Fairfax Music room on Tuesday, holding an award ceremony for the Indigenous students of the school. Complemented by rich music and a dance performed by both Gawura and St Andrew’s students, the day was an explicit reminder of our commitment to purposeful and targeted Indigenous learning.

The event was graced by special guest, Professor Larissa Behrendt, a legal academic, award-winning writer and the 2011 NSW Australian of the Year. Ms Behrendt has long been an Ambassador of the Gawura campus and is a passionate advocate of quality Indigenous education. “When I look at the children of Gawura, I see my community of tomorrow,” she told the gathering of parents, students and special guests. “I see bright children who understand the value of education and who have great potential to be enormous factors of change within our community.” 

Gawura’s model of education is unique – a day school model with a strong focus on literacy and numeracy acquisition. Families are involved wherever possible and positive role-models in the broader Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community of Sydney often visit the class to speak or assist.

“The education my Grandson is getting is tops,” said Kay at the NAIDOC celebration, grandmother to Keith in Year 2. “When he comes home and tells me about the things that he’s learnt, I’m amazed... I’m really pleased and really proud of him.”

It’s not only the families and friends of Gawura students who understand the amazing opportunity Gawura provides. Keon Dawson, a student who joined Gawura in 2009, is now Year 7 at St Andrew’s. “Gawura has really helped me with my work. It’s helped me with opportunities in life and for me to become a better person… I miss Gawura.”
Several of our Gawura graduates from the very first cohort of 2007 took a leading role in the event. Now in St Andrew’s Middle School, Louise and Rachel Durmish and Taylor Naylor-Taggart performed a song together, and Taylor acting as event MC, with an incredible liveliness and maturity. Each of our Indigenous students was commended with a personalised award, congratulating them for their commitment to their education and the passion, energy and respect they give to both their Indigenous and curriculum-based learning.

Gawura has gone from strength to strength over the past five years. The drive of those who support and engage with it has not wavered. There are even more exciting prospects in the near future – as Mr Ralph Stagg, Founder of The Rali Foundation & Member of the Sydney Mining Club articulated perfectly at the event, the biggest issue now is securing further funding.

It is truly exciting to see the changes already made in the lives of the Gawura students by an education model that is dedicated to ensuring they keep on track to success. More exciting however are the changes to come, the possibilities in the lives of our current K-6 students and the impact Gawura is having as it flourishes as a lighthouse model for Australian Indigenous education.

* The National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee.

Words and images: Jack Toohey

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