Good Samaritan Education launches Reflect Reconciliation Action Plan

Good Samaritan Education proudly launched our Reflect Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) to the broader community at our recent March Assembly.

The formal launch of our RAP marks a significant milestone in GSE’s nearly two-year reconciliation journey. Our Schools of Welcome statement released in 2022 was a precursor to undergoing the RAP process.

After months of discernment, GSE felt that a RAP would help improve our understanding of reconciliation and the actions we can take to support this.

“With more than 9000 students across NSW, Victoria and Queensland attending a GSE school, we believe it is our duty to help foster reconciliation for both the present and future, by learning from the past,” GSE Executive Director Jane Comensoli said.

“Our goal is to build strong relationships that support the work of our schools. This includes finding ways to incorporate Indigenous voices and perspectives into our governance and decision-making processes.”

A key feature of the launch was the unveiling of new artwork, symbolising our commitment to stewarding reconciliation.

Image: Ngara Muru by Dhurag artist Leanne Redpath (Mulgokiwi) for Good Samaritan Education.

Beautifully created by Dhurag artist Leanne Redpath (Mulgokiwi), the artwork titled Ngara Muru represents our 10 schools and the lands they reside on. The schools are interconnected by song lines and the shared mission of education in the Good Samaritan Benedictine tradition. 

A description of the artwork:

The title of the painting is Ngara Muru, which means listening and sharing journey, it represents those who have travelled along the ancient song lines to come together to learn and share our dreams. 

The hearth is an ancient fire where communities have come together for thousands of years on country. The wattle tells us where we need to go. Burra, the eel, represent the places gathered in NSW while the bunya pines represent the places we gather in Queensland, and the bogong moth shows the places we gather in Victoria.

The buru (kangaroo) and mariong (emu) prints show how we travel along song lines, along far distances to come together.

It is a painting of people coming together and sharing, helping and learning.

The launch of our RAP included two special guest presentations – a video message by Professor Marcia Langton AO and a presentation by Nina Ross from the Narragunnawali organisation.

Marcia’s video message discussed the steps towards reconciliation in response to the failed Voice to Parliament referendum in October 2023. She encouraged us to focus on the “39% of people who are journeying with Indigenous people in reconciliation.”

Prof Marcia Langton AO. Image: Wikimedia.

“The next step from the Uluru Statement from the Heart is to build on our successes and through our teaching, our curricular development and our work in the education sector, we ensure that Australians know the truth about Australian history and about present-day circumstances,” Marcia said.

“I want to give our students a strong message: that Indigenous knowledge not only survives but thrives and is important to their education. And in order to be informed Australians who understand their own country, they should understand Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, history and our knowledge system.”

Nina gave a presentation on her work at Narragunnawali, Reconciliation Australia’s organisation focusing on reconciliation in education. Establishing this connection with Narragunnawali has been identified as a priority within GSE, with our newfound relationship with Nina facilitating this partnership.

Jane said Marcia’s and Nina’s insights on the role of education for reconciliation has given GSE the inspiration to go beyond just meeting our RAP requirements. “We are thankful for them both taking the time to share their wisdom with us,” she said. 

Reconciliation Australia officially endorsed GSE’s Reflect RAP in July 2023. This endorsement added GSE to a network of more than 2200 corporations, government agencies and not-for-profit organisations committed to reconciliation.

The purpose of the RAP is to provide a framework to leverage structures and spheres of influence to support Australia’s national reconciliation movement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. There are four stages of RAPs in this framework: Reflect, Innovate, Stretch and Elevate. Each stage is implemented between 12 months and two years.

A RAP Working Party was established to oversee the implementation of our deliverables. Working Party Membership includes a member of Governing Council, two GSE Services staff (one being the Director of Formation and Mission Integration) and a school representative from each diocese.

GSE Governing Councillor and Chair for the RAP Working Party, Libby Denny, reflected that it had been a privilege to be a part of the development of our RAP.

“The process of developing a genuine RAP is about deepening our understanding and connection to the national agenda of reconciliation: to honour and respect our First Nations People, to challenge our ways of ‘thinking’ and ‘doing’ and to then reflect these practical ways in our organisation,” she said.

“Our Reflect RAP focuses on relationships. Education of not only our young people in our schools but all who belong to our GSE community is foundational on the journey of reconciliation.”

Some of the actions and activities GSE has undertaken include:

  • Endorsing the Uluru Statement from the Heart in May 2023 via social media;
  • Developing a Statement on the Indigenous Voice to Parliament;
  • Hosting and participating in celebrations of National Reconciliation Week and NAIDOC Week in 2023;
  • Exploring the theme of First Nations: Country, Connection and Custodianship in our Prophetic Voices student forum; and
  • Spreading awareness of Indigenous and First Nations traditions and issues through resources distributed within our community and on social media.

In coming months, GSE will continue progress on our RAP as we work towards our second ‘Innovate’ action plan.

National Reconciliation Week will take place from 27 May-3 June 2024 and has the theme Now More Than Ever.

Image: Reconciliation Australia.