By Natashya Fernandez
Clontarf Aboriginal College celebrated its inaugural Religious Education Week from 6 to 9 June with the aim of providing a connection between the Religious Education learning area and Aboriginal spirituality and culture for all its students.
The week-long event, organised by Head of Religious Education and Campus Ministry Salvatore De Luca, was a faith and culture filled action-packed week that saw Aboriginal elders, speakers from across Australia and indigenous guests partake in the celebrations to create an inspiring atmosphere around the campus and for many of its students.
Principal of Clontarf Aboriginal College, Troy Hayter, said that for a first it was a great initiative by Mr De Luca.
“For us, it means celebrating our Catholic faith and also our knowledge and understanding of Aboriginal spirituality of our students and how much the two intertwine. It’s who we are at Clontarf.
“It’s been wonderful having many of our Aboriginal Elders come here throughout the week, along with many Indigenous guests who have come and spoken about their experiences and their connection with their faith.
“We are a CARE school so we look after students who may be disengaged, suffered trauma and there is also inter-generational trauma from the Stolen Generations.”
This week also focussed on Clontarf being very much about reconciliation as well, he said.
“We are very grateful for the Christian Brothers dedicating the college to Catholic Aboriginal education.
“It is also very much a part of that reconciliation and healing from our sad past to what we are doing here at Clontarf,” Mr Hayter added.
The week included a beautiful and meaningful Welcome to Country and Smoking Ceremony led by Noongar Elders which provided a very visible link to the many similarities between the Catholic faith and Aboriginal spirituality.
Mr De Luca said that while there was something for everyone – competitions, educational speeches and games, the high-quality guest list from religious, cultural, musical, sporting and educational backgrounds were a highlight that kept students engaged throughout the week.
The guest list spoke to the students and staff on a variety of topics including personal faith sharing, theology, cultural experiences, social justice issues and motivational issue.
“From guest speakers such as Bishop Donald Sproxton, Frs Joseph Tran and Rob Galea who gave their testimonies, Aboriginal Hip Hop artist Ziggy Ramo to Dr Angela McCarthy from the University of Notre Dame and basketball star Shawn Redhage who spoke and engaged the students, Clontarf’s first principal Br Kevin Ryan also visited during the week,” Mr De Luca said.
While year seven student Lalita enjoyed the whole week, a highlight for her was Fr Joseph Tran’s testimony about his life.
Agnes from year 12, said that she enjoyed the music and many guest speakers.
“It’s too hard to pick a favourite, they were all great. I enjoyed all the activities and competitions.
“RE week is important because it’s giving us all an understanding of faith and its link to Aboriginal spirituality,” Agnes added.
“The Welcome to Country and Smoking Ceremony made me feel proud to be Aboriginal.
“It changes the way I think about Religious Education and hearing from the guest speakers, their life
“It changes the way I think about Religious Education and hearing from the guest speakers, their life stories and how their faith has changed them, gave me an understanding of how God works in us,” Agnes said.
With plans to make RE week an annual event every year at Clontarf Aboriginal College, Mr De Luca is excited about the positive feedback received from students and staff and is already looking forward to next year’s RE Week.