The Aquinas Long Walk for Reconciliation

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2 June 2016

By Paul Morgan, Head Catholic Life


The 2016 Aquinas Long Walk in support of Reconciliation with Indigenous Australians was significantly differentAquinas Communituy Long Walk led by Michael Long and Gavin Wanganeen. to those from the past four years in which we had gathered to walk as a school community. After much planning and negotiation with the Long Walk Foundation, over twenty Catholic primary and secondary schools, Minaret Islamic College, Mount Scopus Memorial College and our neighbours, Great Ryrie Primary School joined with the Aquinas Community – and in 2016 our ideal of a Community Long Walk turned from vision to reality.

While our Middle Years students took their traditional walk around the grounds of the College, our Senior students and our visiting schools went on a 1.7 kilometre walk around the block led by founder of the Long Walk Foundation, Michael Long, and 1993 Brownlow Medallist and 300 game veteran from Essendon and Port Adelaide, Gavin Wanganeen.

It was wonderful to witness our students interact with our invited guests. Many Year 9 Aquinas students were ‘buddied-up’ as ambassadors of Aquinas with students from the Catholic primary school they had attended. Our FIRE Carriers (Friends Igniting Reconciliation through Education), our Year 11 Faith and Liturgy students and a number of our student leaders made our secondary school guests very welcome.

To witness the many schools, proudly displaying their school banners in support of Reconciliation was uplifting, to say the least. To see the parade march up Great Ryrie Street and stroll through the gates of the College with such obvious joy in what they were doing was a beautiful sight to behold.

While the remainder of the College readied themselves for our assembly, the visiting schools, the Long Walk Foundation, Caritas, Office of Peace and Justice, Archdiocese of Melbourne, Michael and Gavin, and our Fire Carriers mingled happily in the O’Driscoll Room. It was great to see Muslim, Jewish and Catholic students mixing freely, united in the cause of reconciliation.

After our guests had been seated, the school assembly acknowledged the presence of our guests and two of our Year 11 Faith and Liturgy students delivered a beautiful prayer written by Lenore Parker, the first Indigenous women to become an Anglican Minister in the Diocese of Grafton. This was followed by a beautiful rendition of a Yorta Yorta song by the College’s ‘Soul Singers’.

Michael Long delivered a heartfelt speech on those things that are dear to his heart: reconciliation, students driving change in society, bringing people together in a common cause, the inherent goodness of humanity. He thanked all those who shared in the morning’s activities making it clear that he was overwhelmed by the presence and representation of so many school communities.

Towards the end of the assembly, one of our FIRE Carrier students presented a cheque from the Aquinas community to the ‘Opening the Doors Foundation’. This Foundation supports indigenous students’ access to educational opportunities by providing things as simple as uniforms and stationery. As Sherry Balcombe from Aboriginal Catholic Ministry said, ‘Opening the Doors brings Reconciliation to life through practical support’.

To round out a wonderful week of events around Reconciliation, twenty-five Aquinas students and six members of staff joined ‘The Long Walk’ from Federation Square to the Melbourne Cricket Ground for ‘The Dreamtime at The G’ Australian Rules football match. Our school banner, our attendance and participation once again proudly and publicly showing solidarity with indigenous Australians as we march towards a better future.