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Reconciliation Week at Melba Copland Secondary School

29 May 2020

Reconciliation Week at Melba Copland Secondary School

Melba Copland Secondary School has held a range of activities to engage students and staff throughout National Reconciliation Week. On Thursday, a small selection of school staff were invited to participate in a traditional Smoking Ceremony, led by the school’s Indigenous Education Officer, Joe Chapman-Freeman.

Joe began the customary ceremony by burning native plants to produce the cleansing smoke; a small number of staff were invited to walk through it to be cleansed. Belinda Whyte, a music teacher at the school and descendent of the Murrawarri people of North West, New South Wales performed ‘My Island Home’ by Christine Anu with Joe.

“The smoke isn’t just to announce our presence to other tribes, but also to cleanse the area and ward off bad spirits. With everything that’s been happening recently, I thought it would be right that we hold a smoking ceremony here at Melba Copland Secondary School,” said Joe.

The ceremony was impactful for the staff who could be present and will now be shared virtually for the whole school community to connect with.

“We all must collectively build relationships, celebrate our shared histories, cultures and achievements, and explore how each of us can contribute to reconciliation in Australia,” said Principal of Melba Copland Secondary School, Jesse Sidhu.

ACT public schools strive to build Indigenous education into the curriculum so students can learn about Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander cultures and history year-round.

At Melba Copland Secondary School, this is reflected through their firm commitment to ensuring students have access to historically accurate, high quality resources from a range of Indigenous authors.

The school recently acquired over 350 new books for its library collection for students to browse and borrow as they please. By reading and sharing of these stories - students have the opportunity to reflect on cultural awareness.

“A focus at Melba Copland Secondary School is getting the right resources in for teaching. Our team has worked really hard to source all these books, we’ve got artefacts to use for teaching in humanities. We’re also now looking at music and different types of dances as well, we’ve got some new instruments that we can begin to incorporate in lessons,” said Cultural Integrity Co-ordinator, Matthew Colbran.

Reconciliation Week at Melba Copland Secondary School
Students enjoying the new books

In the school’s year 10 humanities class, taught by humanities teacher Lisette Robey, students have begun an investigation into the Indigenous Australian Land Rights Movement. The students will engage in an historical situated documentary called Protest '72, developed by their teacher Lisette, using the Augmented Reality Game tool set (ARIS) and produced by Filed Day Learning Games.

A situated documentary overlays historical content in real world locations and is delivered through a fictional narrative. Protest '72 uses the locations of Old Parliament House, The Tent Embassy, Reconciliation Place and the High Court of Australia to engage students in primary sources documents about the 1972 protests and the creation of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, the Wave Hill Walk Off and the Mabo Decision.

Students will take an interdisciplinary approach through the History, Civic and Citizenship and English curriculum to develop their own investigative questions to engage in historical research and prepare to use their learning to write like journalists.

It’s not only literacy and humanities where students enjoy engaging with culture, in PE class, students are learning to throw boomerangs and enjoy playing Buroijin, an Indigenous game played by the Kabi Kabi people of southern Queensland.

Reconciliation Week at Melba Copland Secondary School
Students in the humanities class use their mobile phones to access an online resource

As part of the school’s 5-year plan for Cultural Integrity, the Science, Design and Arts faculties are currently liaising with the Indigenous Education Officer regarding new resources and curriculum changes for Years 7-10 in 2021.