Educating Girls

3 June 2019

Reconciliation strengthening our nation

Reconciliation strengthening our nation

‘So I take this word reconciliation and I use it to reconcile people back to Mother Earth, so they can walk this land together and heal one another because she’s the one that gives birth to everything we see around us, everything we need to survive.’ Max Dulumunmun Harrison


Our Senior School girls were recently fortunate to hear from Aboriginal musician and educator, Scott Darlow, followed by an extended workshop for Year 9 students as part of our ongoing commitment to reconciliation.

A proud Yorta Yorta man, Darlow combines his impressive talents as a musician with honest and rich storytelling. Stories from his family history brought home for students the lived experience of discrimination at the Cummeragunja Mission. Like many other politically active Cummeragunja leaders, such as Jack Patten who led the famous 1939 Cummeragunga ‘walkoff’ and William Cooper who led a peaceful protest at the German consulate in Melbourne in response to ‘Kristallnacht’ in 1938, Darlow is an agent of change and an advocate for understanding and empathy.

One particularly poignant story he shared with our Year 9 students was about his aunt’s experience at Cummeragunja. He explained the ‘tickets of leave’ system that existed at Cummergunja and many other missions around Australia under which Aboriginal people could only make ‘requests’ to leave under specific circumstances. His aunt had requested to take her seriously ill four-year old son to a doctor located across the Murray river in Victoria - outside the jurisdiction of Cummeragunja officials, but literally within eyesight of the Mission. As the gravely ill child’s condition worsened, this denial of leave had tragic consequences: it prevented proper medical treatment for her son and led to his death as a result of preventable infection.

For our girls, this brought home the confronting reality of discrimination in a raw way, giving their classroom learning about this period in Australia’s history a real, human dimension. Darlow’s message to students, while hard hitting, was uplifting. He expertly intermixed raw and honest stories with song and humour. He urged students that past injustice must be met in the present with ‘Forgiveness, Love, Understanding, Tolerance, and Empathy’ (FLUTE) and that, by doing so, they can be the positive change in their own world and in that of others.

National Reconciliation Week (NRW) was recognised at Ruyton as,  ‘a time for all Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures, and achievements, and to explore how each of us can contribute to achieving reconciliation.’ The dates for NRW remain the same each year; 27 May to 3 June. These dates commemorate two significant milestones in the reconciliation journey - the successful 1967 referendum, and the High Court Mabo decision respectively.

At Ruyton we recognise that reconciliation must live in the hearts, minds and actions of all Australians as we move forward, creating a nation strengthened by respectful relationships between the wider Australian community, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Whether we are engaging in challenging conversations or unlearning and relearning what we know, this journey requires all of us to walk together with courage, contributing to a unified future. 

Click here to listen to more of Scott Darlow’s story and music  

Tom Crowle

Learning Leader - Humanities
Ruyton Girls' School

June 2019