A Culture of Diversity
Christ Church Grammar School has a proud history of providing outstanding educational opportunities for young Aboriginal men. Since 1950, more than 60 Aboriginal students have completed their educational journey at the School, including Irwin Lewis who was the first Aboriginal student to graduate from Christ Church and the first Aboriginal to attend the University of Western Australia.
The School’s Indigenous Program is now a key component of the School’s Reconciliation Plan (RAP) which provides a structured approach to advance reconciliation. Annually the School seeks to meet with regional representatives and families and enrol Aboriginal Students with the potential to be leaders in their community. Of equal importance is the educational opportunities that our Aboriginal students provide to the Christ Church community as they share their unique perspectives, backgrounds and wonderful stories.
The Early Years
Learning about our First Nations people begins in the early years of the Preparatory School when boys are assigned to one of four Houses. Each House is represented by an animal symbol designed by local Aboriginal artist Kamsani bin Salleh. The House names are derived from the Noongar word for each animal:
- Karda (goanna)
- Kearla (dolphin)
- Wardung (raven)
- Yonga (kangaroo)
Boys learn about the cultural significance these animals possess and hear from local Elders who visit the School on a regular basis and conduct smoking ceremonies and share the stories and traditions that have been passed down through generations. The boys learn about the creation of the Derbarl Yarrigan, Swan River, and other waterways and their importance in Noongar boodja.
NAIDOC Week at Christ Church
Every year the School celebrates NAIDOC Week and National Reconciliation Week.
The Aboriginal students prepare an art exhibition for the community, featuring the works that celebrate their places of origin. In past years this has included painting surfboards, deck chairs and football boots and designing ties and board shorts.
Inspired by this year’s NAIDOC Week theme, ‘Heal Country’, the School’s 13 Aboriginal students have crafted wooden shields carved with depictions of totem animals from their places of origin.
Work on the shields commenced following an artist-run workshop with Tyrown Waigana, winner of the 2020 NAIDOC Poster prize.
After the students researched their individual totems they spent time drawing the designs to fit onto the shields. Following this, the designs were laser etched on pieces of marri before the wood was cut into the shape of a shield, putting a contemporary twist on the traditional burnt incised wood carving techniques.
The boys’ shields will proudly hang in the School’s Old Boys’ Gallery for the August exhibition, for all of the students and the entire community to enjoy.
Thanks to the generosity of the Christ Church community, the deserving young recipient commenced his journey this month and is now enjoying all that the School has to offer.