A LARGE triptych painting created by hundreds of Canberra school children and their families provided the centrepeice at this morning‘s launch in Canberra Museum and Gallery of the inaugural ACT Schools Reconciliation Challenge.
The launch came close on the heels of the announcement by Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Rachel Stephen-Smith, that Reconciliation Day would become a permanent public holiday in the ACT after its huge success earlier this week.
According to Matt Davies, manager of Red Cross programs in the ACT, around 30,000 students from years 5 to 9 would be eligible to take up the challenge in art and writing, while at the same time learning more about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, their cultures and the significance of Reconciliation.
On hand for the launch was the ACT Minister of Education Yvette Berry, who said that since “some of us adults started a bit behind them”, Reconciliation should start with children.
Proof apparent was there in the form of four keen pupils from the Emmaus Christian School Dickson and their principal, Erik Hofsink, who explained how the school had just launched its first-ever school assembly dedicated to Reconciliation Day.
Pupils at Emmaus had cut out paper hands in the Aboriginal Flag’s colours of red, black and yellow, written messages about Reconciliation on them, arranged the hands on the grass and taken photos, while offering a prayer. Hofsink said he hoped this assembly project could be an entered into the challenge.
Alison Faure-Brac, executive director of the NSW Reconciliation Council, welcome the initiative of the Red Cross the YMCA the YWCA in the Woden Community Service, supported by Reconciliation Australia and the ACT Government.
The challenge had already been running successfully in NSW for nearly 10 years. Art and writing were, in her view, “great vehicles to engage young people”, but the project also helped teachers in an informed and appropriate way through online teaching resources aligned with the primary and secondary syllabuses.
This year’s theme for the challenge, she said, would be “Our voices, our future”.
The ACT Schools Reconciliation Challenge Competition is open until September 21. The work of recipients will go on public display touring NSW and the ACT.