Travelling on a reconciliation journey together

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9 June 2023

Welcome to Country ceremonySt Paul’s School, Sunshine West, recently recognised National Sorry Day as the first step towards a longer celebration of elders in their own community to be held during NAIDOC Week in July.

Students and staff were very fortunate to have Wurundjeri Elder, Aunty Annette Xiberras, come to the school and perform a Welcome to Country. Together, they celebrated the beginning of National Reconciliation Week and acknowledged the importance of Sorry Day to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.

Aunty Annette enjoyed morning tea with staff and reminded everyone that National Sorry Day shouldn’t only be about the Aboriginal children who were part of the stolen generations, but should also acknowledge the women who were pregnant out of wedlock during that era and were sent away to have their babies. It was a heartfelt message that touched many of the staff.


The students and staff were then welcomed around a fire pit and enjoyed the beautiful eucalyptus-scented smoking ceremony. They were shown how to embrace the cleansing smoke as they walked through it. Aunty Annette went on to welcome them to Wurundjeri Country and assured them that the week wasn’t just about Aboriginal history, but about everyone who sees themselves as being part of Australia’s history – united as one and walking together as brothers and sisters.

Some students were invited to perform the Dreamtime creation story about Bunjil, who flew over and gave life to all the Australian animals. It was great to see every student clapping along eagerly, waiting for the animals to come to life.


Aunty Annette gave everyone a sense of belonging on Wurundjeri Country and reassured them that we are all on a reconciliation journey together. When the students returned to their classrooms, they wrote a sentence about why it is important to be inclusive and to treat everyone with respect. These are now on display for the St Paul’s School community to read.

The school’s Koori Education Officer, Ashlea Niemi, a proud Yorta Yorta and Wemba Wemba woman, invited Aunty Annette and a number of other Aboriginal performers to return for a special NAIDOC Week celebration in July, when the school community will be remembering their elders (grandparents, uncles and aunties) and celebrating everything ‘deadly’.

Staff and students at St Paul's