During the Middle School Reconciliation Week Assembly, two of our former Camberwell Grammar students returned to talk about the artworks they had created for the School. Luke Tieri (2019), a Yorta Yorta man, and Alexander Greenaway (2021), a Kamilaroi man, spoke passionately about the strength they have drawn from their culture and their Elders and their belief in our collective capacity to use our voices to bring about positive change, reflecting this year’s Reconciliation Week theme – ‘Be a Voice for Generations’. The artworks they have created will be used to create a series of posters that will be permanently displayed in each classroom around the School.

Luke explained to Middle School students that an Acknowledgment of Country is not only a demonstration of the cultural respect for the traditional custodians of the land on which a meeting or event is being held, but that being ‘culturally aware of the history and traditional lands of where you attend school, where you live, and even where you travel within Australia, can be significant to your understanding of Aboriginal people’s connection to Country, culture, and community, and can be your contribution to a reconciled Australia.’ 

The artworks themselves reflect the School’s commitment to reconciliation and the development of meaningful relationships. Luke’s painting, titled Together on Country, ‘is a depiction of community, partnership, inclusion, and connection to culture. The large blue yarning circles symbolise a place for people to gather and work together to strengthen relationships with others in a culturally safe environment. Green pathways throughout the artwork depict learning pathways and reflect Camberwell Grammar’s reconciliation journey, and this is emphasised with the pathways continuing off the artwork and that this journey is ongoing.’

Alexander’s painting, Bloodlines, is reminiscent of a body – the big beating heart in the centre, with veins bleeding into it. The veins are blue, reflecting the Yarra River, which passes through Wurrundjeri land, and imagines this land as a breathing, living thing – a part of ourselves, as one with ourselves. Alexander said that while the Acknowledgement of Country posters may seem like a small thing, ‘from these small things we can all grow, we can grow as people. When you see the poster in your classroom, it will give you a chance to reflect, to think, to understand, and to develop your own relationship with Country – to understand the values of the Indigenous people, and to embed that within your own life.’

Luke finished his presentation by stating that ‘my hope is that Camberwell Grammar’s commitment to reconciliation will embed further knowledge and understanding within the School through learning about our culture and community, and the vast disparity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. Your cultural understanding can then be shared beyond the School grounds with the wider community, and I encourage you all to be a voice, in a meaningful way, by acknowledging traditional custodians and supporting our reconciliation journey. This partnership, respect, and engagement aligns with the School Values and motto, Spectemur Agendo - By our Deeds may we be known.’

Both the Middle and Senior School Assemblies furthered this embracing of Acknowledgement to Country by having students from the Junior, Middle, and Senior School offer a unique Acknowledgment to Country, showing that there are many ways to show respect and the willingness to learn. As the Head of Middle School, Mr Troy Stanley said, ‘We acknowledge that we have much to learn from our First Nations people, their stories, and their understanding of the land and its ecosystems. We recognise that true learning involves acknowledging the perspective and wisdom of others.’ 

Many thanks to Ms Stephanie Bohni, the School’s Indigenous Program Development Coordinator, and her team for their continued work and efforts in the education of our community on our reconciliation journey.