Sadie just finished high school, but sadly she won't get the valedictory day everyone at Gawura had hoped for.
Sadie Green was our longest-attending student at Gawura, a primary day school for the Indigenous children of inner Sydney. Sadie and her family have been an important and inspiring part of our Gawura community throughout those years.
We’re disappointed we can’t acknowledge Sadie’s time with us in the way we’d all like, thanks to COVID-related lockdowns.
Our students are struggling right now. Their families are struggling, too and we know that lockdowns have made a hard situation worse for many people.
Gawura families can’t connect with their loved ones on Country as they normally would, and students missed their annual cultural learning trip On Country again this year. The yearly trip to a different Nation in Australia is a vital part of the Gawura program, taking students out of the classroom and away from the city, to learn from Traditional Owners and Elders.
Time isn’t on the side of First Nations Peoples, who live an average of eight years less than their non-Indigenous friends. Indigenous communities suffer from poor health, sickening incarceration rates and suicide rates at crisis levels that impact every member of the community. When it comes to education, Indigenous students finish year 12 at half the rate of their non-Indigenous peers.
Here at Gawura we provide an environment where students feel safe, have access to wonderful teachers and an education that is culturally informed and authentic. A strong focus on literacy and numeracy sits alongside cultural learning. Students are offered scholarships at St Andrew’s Cathedral School for their secondary education. Gawura’s recognition as Australian School of the Year 2020 is acknowledgement of many years of hard work.
The value of education reaches so far for First Nations children, and we rely on donations to enhance our students’ access to learning. The generosity of donors over the past few years has meant that we could employ more teachers and support staff and to immerse students even more in culture. We now have an Elder in Residence, a teacher’s aide for Year 7 to help students make that transition from primary to secondary school easier, and targeted intervention for students when needed in the foundational K-6 years. We know that when students feel culturally safe, they can learn at their best.
Sadie was given the gift of education by donors like the Origin Energy Foundation.
Donors help fund emergency lunches for students, pay for classroom and student resources, including the laptops student are using for remote learning, books and art supplies so that students can have knowledge passed on to them. Donors give so that students who need it can receive support like speech and occupational therapy at school. They also pay for music lessons and instrument hire, cultural activities like dance lessons, cultural excursions each term and the annual On Country trip away.
But lockdowns have impacted our ability to raise funds for our school. Our ability to provide learning support and tutoring for secondary students when they are at home is limited and getting students away from screen is so important, too. When face-to-face school resumes there will be so much to do.
Sadie loved the On Country trips she got to experience while she was at school, including trips to Yuin Nation and Wiradjuri Nation. She learnt more than just culture on these trips. We saw Sadie come out of her shell and gain confidence as a leader and ‘Elder’ of our school. She looked after the younger children on trips, including them in her conversations and checking in on them regularly. She talked to the younger ones about school and shared her own challenges, to encourage them.
Sadie took that confidence with her back to school. Her wonderful compassion, empathy and caring nature shone through during her time at Gawura, and throughout her high school years at St Andrew’s Cathedral School.
We will miss Sadie immensely and are so proud of her. Graduating year 12 is a wonderful achievement.
My family have been part of Gawura right from the start, in 2007. Aunty Sharon Minniecon, one of the Gawura founders, stopped my Mum in a cafe in Redfern and said they were starting a new school for Aboriginal kids in the city and that’s how we got involved.
I loved Gawura when I started the following year. It was like going to a family BBQ because I had my two brothers, my sister and a few cousins at school with me every day.
I had so many opportunities at school, like learning the cello for four years and performing. I also played lots of sport and won two grand finals, in soccer and basketball. My basketball team won the grand final this year which was awesome.
I loved getting away On Country with the Gawura kids. It was great to be together. It was like the happy days when I started.
My friends and family told me to stick it out at school. They really helped me get to the end of year 12.
My advice to the Gawura kids today is to do the same, to take all the opportunities to learn. At the time you might not be interested, but you should do it. And finishing school, even when it’s a challenge, is a wonderful achievement.
Gawura is a long-term partner of the Origin Energy Foundation. Indigenous education is a priority of the Foundation, and a third of our grant distributions over the past 10 years have gone to support this focus.
You can donate to Gawura and help Indigenous students like Sadie to achieve in education.