As educational leaders our challenge is to assist schools in building trust with their Koorie students, their parents and the local and greater Koorie community. Like all other students, Koorie children have a right to feel safe and welcome in the knowledge that their culture, past and present, is respected and valued.
Allowing Koorie culture and practices to be woven into existing educational policy and procedures is critical to increasing understanding and respect for all Koorie students.
We know that when this occurs, great things happen – and are
happening in Koorie education. So when the Bastow Institute of Educational Leadership requested to be formally ‘Welcomed to Country’ by the traditional custodians of the land, the Wurundjeri people, this also became an opportunity to explore and showcase the great work being undertaken in Koorie education.
With the assistance of our project advisory group – the Koorie Strategy Unit, DEECD and the Victorian Aboriginal Education Association (VAEAI) – we built relationships with respected Wurundjeri Elder, Aunty Joy Murphy; renowned aboriginal artist, Glenn Romanis, and a number of schools delivering Koorie education programs.
Bastow’s ‘Welcome to Country’ smoking ceremony was conducted by Aunty Joy, who explained the significance: “We call this ceremony The Barmberring. The Barmberring honours our ancestors who have looked after this land for thousands and thousands of years. The ceremony creates a new beginning. This area becomes a spiritual space returning the spirits of our ancestors to this land.”
Aunty Joy then welcomed everyone in her Woiwurung language.
The ceremony was filmed and then edited with footage of Koorie education in Victorian schools. This short film ‘Wominjeka Bastow’ is now, our way of warmly welcoming you to the Institute and inviting you to remember the importance of our Koorie students.
The project also included the installation of a sculptural representation of a traditional Message Stick, created by Glenn Romanis in collaboration with Aunty Joy Murphy. Traditionally, message sticks were passed between clans and language groups to transmit information, or identify a visitor, much like a passport does.
The Bastow Message Stick is carved with the shape and curves of gum leaves that represent the Moonee Ponds Creek, Maribyrnong River and Yarra River. Triangular forms recall the shield motives from Melbourne’s great Wurundjeri leader, William Barak. The Bastow Institute appears in one of these triangles, cleverly oriented in reference to the creek and rivers, and where the Institute sits on Wurundjeri land, thus continuing the role that teaching and learning plays in all cultures.
Bastow recognises the important contribution of the traditional custodians of the land on which we teach and learn, both past and present. And we hope that this project acknowledges and promotes a greater understanding of the importance and value of leading Koorie education in our schools.