Indigenous Education - Hyllus Maris

Indigenous Education - Hyllus Maris

Thursday, 16 March 2017  | Gerry - Administration Manager
Last week Dr Roger F, Natalie and I attended the Hyllus Maris memorial lecture at Latrobe University.  It was a moving and inspiring experience. The event featured a dance performance by indigenous students from Worawa Aboriginal College, an Indigenous academic procession, a Welcome to Country, performances by indigenous musicians, and of course the lecture itself delivered by Dr Anita H, an indigenous author.

Who was Hyllus Maris? As I write I shall refer to her respectfully as Aunty Hyllus as a sign of esteem for her status as a past indigenous elder. Aunty Hyllus is an important figure in the history of Victoria. As outlined in the lecture’s program, “Hyllus Maris was many things: activist, artist, cultural leader and philosopher. Above all she was a visionary, who used her many talents to stand up for what she believed in.” A notable success of hers was the establishment of Victoria’s first and only Aboriginal boarding school – Worawa Aboriginal College, now in nearby Healesville. You may recall from our newsletter reports over the last few years that both MECS and Ranges TEC have a valued relationship with Worawa.

Aunty Hyllus was originally from Cummera-gunja station on the NSW side of the Murray river. At around age 5 she was part of the famous 1939 walk off by the 200 indigenous residents (done in protest over mismanagement – the NSW Aboriginal Protection Board wasn’t doing much protecting). Later in adult life in Melbourne, she helped found the National Council of Aboriginal and Island Women in 1970. From this body grew the Aboriginal medical and legal services in Fitzroy, of which Aunty Hyllus was a co-founder. In the mid-1970s, she collaborated with the Austrian-born author, Sonia Borg, in writing Women of the Sun, a history of Australia over the previous 200 years, as seen through the experiences of a number of Aboriginal women. That was adapted as a television series in 1982 (SBS/ABC). Women of the Sun won many awards, including the United Nations Media Peace Prize and the AWGIE award of the Australian Writers Guild. We have used this video series over the years in our Year 10 indigenous studies program here at MECS. Aunty Hyllus passed away from cancer in 1986 leaving a legacy of a vision for holistic education for Aboriginal children. I’d encourage you to do some online research into this remarkable woman.

To focus on Aunty Hyllus is also timely in another respect. Last year we started work on an Aboriginal Studies Framework and Reconciliation Action Plan. MECS has a long history of relating in meaningful ways to Aboriginal people and issues. The main focus of this has been through our Warlpiri friends. Along the way sporadic interaction has also occurred with some local Aboriginal people. In all of this good long history we have taken a very relational approach. While we have seen some very good outcomes from our relational approach, a recent review concluded that we need to be seeking great outcomes that embrace both local Aboriginal neighbours and distant Aboriginal neighbours. One way to enable such great outcomes is to develop a guiding framework and reconciliation action plan.

Many of the discussions in the working group so far have been around identifying issues and resources. And while that continues, our focus this year will be on developing our responses to the issues and organising our curriculum to assist students to have a head, heart and hand response to our indigenous neighbours. One very early concrete action is that we have installed an additional flagpole outside the library so that we can fly the Aboriginal flag alongside the Australian flag. Flying the Aboriginal flag is a demonstration of our recognition of First Nation peoples. It is our hope that by doing this we promote a sense of partnership with indigenous communities. It is also a physical expression of our commitment toward reconciliation. Flying the flag is also a highly visible symbol of respect.

Please be praying that God blesses with wisdom and insight the group that is working on the Aboriginal Studies Framework and Reconciliation Action Plan.

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