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Righting the Wrongs of the Past

One of our four touchstones that defines us as a Catholic school in the Edmund Rice tradition is Justice and Solidarity. In this touchstone we are called to commit to justice and peace for all, grounded in a spirituality of action and reflection that calls us to stand in solidarity with those who are marginalised and the Earth itself.

As an Edmund Rice school community we join people across the nation in celebrating Sorry Day this month. National Sorry Day marks the anniversary of the tabling of the landmark 1997 Bringing Them Home report into past government policies and practices that saw tens of thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children forcibly removed from their families. Sorry Day highlights the importance of recognising and sharing the experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people removed from their families. Despite a number of things happening, including the National Apology in 2008, it is disappointing that successive governments have failed and continue to fail to respond to the report and its 54 recommendations.

Twenty years after the Bringing Them Home report was released, many Aboriginal and Torres Strait people continue to suffer. Many of the Stolen Generations were psychologically, physically and sexually abused while in care, a trauma they are still trying to heal from today. A disconnection from culture meant a lifelong struggle to reconnect to family and country. As stories emerged from the Bringing them Home Inquiry, it was clear that high levels of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress and suicide was common amongst the Stolen Generations.

The recognition of past wrongs in Australia has been described as ‘the test we’ve always failed’. National Sorry Day recognises the negative impact of Australian policies, practices and attitudes on Indigenous people. The official response to the National Apology, by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Tom Calma, acknowledged that the apology ‘paid respect to the Stolen Generations. For their suffering and their loss. For their resilience. And ultimately, for their dignity.’ National Sorry Day offers everyone in our community the opportunity to actively support reconciliation.

The process of reconciliation must be an ongoing one. It is a time for all people to acknowledge the shared experience in our community, to discover a shared heritage, to understand and respect the local indigenous people and their culture and make our community a better place to live. One of the five essential steps to reconciliation is that we recognise that the past injustices continues to give rise to the present disadvantage for indigenous Australians. Reconciliation can only succeed if all Australians embrace it and create a partnership between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians, based on mutual respect and equality.

The following words of John Paul II (in Alice Springs 29.11.86) sum up many of the intentions of Sorry Day: “You are a part of Australia and Australia is a part of you. And the church and herself in Australia will not be fully the church that Jesus wants her to be until you have made your contribution to her life and until that contribution has been joyfully received by others”.

Prayer for our Future
Almighty and loving God, you who created ALL people in your image,
Lead us to seek your compassion as we listen to the stories of our past.
You gave your only son, Jesus, who died and rose again so that sins will be forgiven.
We place before you the pain and anguish of disposition of land, language, lore, culture and family Kinship that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have experienced.
We live in faith that all people will rise from the depths of despair and hopelessness.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait families have endured the pain and loss of loved ones, through the separation of children from their families.
We are sorry and ask for God’s forgiveness.
Touch the hearts of the broken, homeless and afflicted and heal their spirits.
In your mercy and compassion walk with us as we continue our journey of healing to create a future that is just and equitable.
Lord you are our hope. Amen.

EREA Principal’s Gathering
This week I will be attending an EREA Principal’s gathering in Canberra. The purpose of letting you know this is twofold. Firstly I wanted to advise the community of my absence from Wednesday through Friday, but more importantly I wanted to advise you of something special that will happen at this particular gathering. Dr Wayne Tinsey, EREA Executive Director recently requested Principals to share an important communique with our communities and it relates to this gathering. In part Dr Tinsey wrote: “Each year EREA Principals participate in a significant gathering which addresses issues relating to the role of Principal, the Church in the world, and signs of the times which impact upon education, leadership and justice. In 2017, our Principals meet in our national capital, Canberra, hosted by St Edmund’s College and the National Arboretum.

Inspired by the encyclical of Pope Francis, Laudato Si’ and encouraged by the work of our EREA Board Sustainability Committee, Principals will join with invited delegates from our schools to reflect upon and discern the shape of a network-wide response to ecological sustainability.

Most significantly, Principals will gather on June 1 at the National Arboretum, a unique place of regeneration, renewal and healing, to proclaim as a family of Edmund Rice Schools, a National Apology to the Victims and Survivors of Sexual Abuse in our Schools.

As these confronting, yet inspiring themes are explored, our relationships are strengthened and our solidarity deepened. The challenge will be to look back, acknowledge past wrongs against our earth and our fellow humans, and seek a pathway to a future which affirms the dignity of all created life. In doing so, any option or action which diminishes life and undermines solidarity is rejected.

The National Apology is from EREA on behalf of all EREA schools to the victims and survivors of sexual abuse. It is a response by current school communities to the abuse by Christian Brothers, clergy and lay staff in EREA schools. This National Apology has been supported by the EREA Council, Board, Executive, Leadership Team, Principals and, following a meeting with Br Peter Clinch, the Province Leadership Team.” I will share more of this important occasion next week following this historic day.

School Funding
The confusion over the Federal Government’s new funding arrangements continues. I would like to share with you a release from the Queensland Catholic Education Commission.
“The media continues to be full of confusing and inaccurate information about the Federal Government’s school funding package. There remain a number of concerns for Catholic schools in the proposed model. While overall the system will receive an increase in funds, the impacts on many schools will be negative.
One of our greatest concerns is around the way the Government determines the funding level for each school based on socio-economic status. This is determined by the post code areas our families live in, not by their actual income. The current system of school funding includes a method of averaging across all Catholic schools which smooths out inequities thrown up by using post codes as a method of determining the capacity of our families to pay fees. The new model abandons that averaging process. Catholic schools are also deeply concerned about the impacts for students with disabilities. On currently available information, changes to definitions and funding methods for students with disabilities will lead to a cut in funding available to Queensland Catholic schools that support these students. As a system, we are committed to supporting our most vulnerable students and we need a funding system that does the same.”
If the opportunity arises it would not hurt if you shared our concern with your local Federal member.

I would ask you to please keep Ryan Tenorio (Year 6) and his family in your thoughts and prayers following the recent passing of his maternal grandfather. Also, please keep Christian Bunn (Year 9) and his family in your thoughts and prayers following the recent passing of his grandfather. Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord, may perpetual light shine upon them, may they rest in peace Amen

With best wishes
Michael Senior