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Sunday, July 3, 2011

Promoting Equity & Social Justice at Riverview

One of the last times Kelly and I student taught at Riverview was on Reconciliation Day. Reconciliation Day is a day dedicated to recognizing the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of Australia. It is a day that is meant to teach about their struggles in hopes of promoting equity and deepening understanding of their history and how their past affects their present day lives.

On this day, we were lucky enough to see an Aboriginal ceremony put on by the Riverview community. During this ceremony we first watched a slideshow outlining Aboriginal history leading up to Reconciliation day. After this, we heard from an elderly Aboriginal who told his family’s story of strife and struggle. During these parts of the ceremony, all of the Aboriginal students who board at Riverview’s high school sat in the front of the assembly wearing traditional Aboriginal clothing. They then each stood up to share their own personal stories, and then carried out a religious ritual followed by a series of Aboriginal dances. I thought that this was an incredible way for the Aboriginal student population to share their story with the rest of the Riverview community who responded to their performance with awe and respect.

Having the students talk about their culture and showcase it in this way reflected St. Ignatius Riverview’s mission to promote inclusion and openness. I think that the values Riverview instills upon its community promote equity and social justice and that celebrating Reconciliation Day by having their own community members perform helped to further emphasize these values. By working in such an environment, I learned the value of promoting equity and also picked up on a few ways to push for social justice in my own classroom. I think that one of the most essential ways to reach equity and social justice in a classroom setting is by ensuring the inclusion of everyone. I thereby aspire to teach all sides to every story, and to recognize all of the cultures represented not only by the students in my classroom but also by the school community in its entirety. Teaching at Riverview on Reconciliation Day was an especially valuable experience for me because I was able to learn a lot about the inequities present in Australian culture that I was previously unaware of. I thereby feel that I will be better able to teach about Australia or to Australians in a way that recognizes inequities and encourages pushing for social justice to replace them.

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