Closing the Gap | Ms Nikita Bedwell
Today we acknowledge National Close The Gap Day. This is Australia’s biggest movement regarding health equality for First Peoples of Australia. Since 2006, the Close The Gap campaign has been highlighting the health inequalities which many First Nations people experience. However, it is not just in health where we see a gap between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Australians but also in education, life expectancy, infant mortality, incarceration rates and employment opportunities. Everyone deserves the right to a healthy future; particularly in a rich country like ours.
Last Friday afternoon, our Barrambin Yarning Group students gathered with Cultural Mentor, Marlon Riley, to discuss what Close The Gap means for them both individually and collectively. Within a culturally safe environment, each student had the opportunity to speak and share their thoughts, feelings and personal experiences. Marlon guided the students through a meaningful discussion, empowering the voices of our First Nations students.
Together, the Barrambin Yarning Group discussed the importance of all Australians becoming educated on the issue of closing the gap, but more significantly, the group felt the greatest need was simply Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people being heard. The strongest support that can be offered is listening - listening to the stories, experiences, history and knowledge of our First Nations people.
The Barrambin Yarning Group has also begun planning and conceptualising their ‘Barrambin Room’. This room will operate as a functional classroom and also as the gathering space for the Barrambin Yarning Group students. This room will be where our First Nations students will meet for their Friday afternoon yarning group sessions and where their cultural dance practices will take place. There are 23 different Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nations represented in our Terrace Family and our hope is to have these nations, traditions and stories represented on the walls of the Barrambin Room, designed and workshopped by our First Nations students. While it is special that our First Nations students can take ownership in the creation of their own culturally safe space, it is also significant that there will be a room for the rest of the College to engage in and learn from.
As an Edmund Rice school in the Catholic tradition, the words inclusive community, equity and justice and solidarity are foundational to our identity and culture. Our Touchstones motivate us to see and actively work towards equal opportunity for all. These Touchstones ground us in a spirituality of action that calls us to stand in solidarity with both First Nations Peoples and the land as we bravely make change. As a College Community, we are deeply moved and proud of the Barrambin Yarning Group’s cultural leadership and their confidence in sharing their stories and traditions. The Terrace Family – the College Leadership Team, teachers, non-teaching staff, students and parents – have embraced this and have shown their commitment to boldly walk forward with our First Nations students and their families.