To start, I would like to acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we work and live, and on which IGS is placed, Gadigal land of the Eora nation. I’d also like to recognise their continuing connection to land, water and community. I pay respect to Elders past, present and emerging.
IGS has an important and public role in our community, and we have a history of expressing our support for various political movements, such as letting students participate in the school strikes for climate change in past years.
It is equally important that we apply this fervour to the current state of the world, as over the past few weeks I’m sure you are aware of the increasing focus on the protests taking place globally against racism, particularly in the US. This has been propelled by the tragic deaths of innocent civilians, such as George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Tony McDade, may they rest in peace.
We must acknowledge the injustices that have occurred and provide support to those that have been unfairly persecuted because of the colour of their skin.
It is also vital that we recognise that the seemingly out of reach racial conflict that is occurring in the US right now is happening and has happened right here in Australia. 432 Aboriginal people have died in custody since 1991. Tanya Day, David Dungay and Joyce Clarke, to name a few. (The names of deceased Aboriginal community members have been used in this piece in a respectful manner.) May they rest in peace as well. David Dungay’s words echo that of George Floyd’s before they so tragically passed – “I can’t breathe”.
Why is it that we hold such outrage against the racism that occurs in the US, but do not look in our backyard?
As a school, IGS has the responsibility to educate its students about the horrors of racism and the real history and culture of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. We already have various initiatives in place to educate our students, such as Red Earth trips that visit Central Australia and remote Indigenous communities every year. [IGS also offers a vibrant Aboriginal Studies course and Kindergarten to Year 12 Indigenous Scholarship Program. View Our Indigenous Journey.]
Our tutor groups are coming together to discuss racism and provide an appropriate support network. Each tutor group has a traditional Aboriginal totem to continue to promote Aboriginal and Torres Islander perspectives. On Thursday 11 June 11.30 am, we will hold a minute of silence out of a shared sense of sadness and respect for the suffering of others.
Hopefully, these trying times serve as a reminder to IGS and our community that we must do better. We must commit ourselves to fight for equality and use the valuable tool we have – education – to create a new generation of accepting people. Donald Fraser, a traditional elder in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) lands who kindly talked with
IGS students has stated, “Our kids and education are the key to reconciliation”.
There is much more to be done, learnt and taught. The path to reconciliation will not be a quick one.
If you are unsure of what to do now, consider researching and reading more about Aboriginal and African American history. Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe is one example of many thought-provoking texts. Stay vigilant and aware of racism and continue to support the Black Lives Matter movement. There are a variety of petitions that can be easily signed, eg Justice for George Floyd. Vigils can be attended right here in Sydney where you can drop off flowers and show your respect for Aboriginal and African American people, as well as any people who have suffered at the hands of racism and white
An important note – we have school counsellors available to talk to any students about these issues, as it is understandable that the violence and riots that are occurring can be quite traumatic.
I hope this message makes it clear that IGS does not tolerate racism and we stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. We will continue to improve our standards and spread positivity within our school community.
Year 12 student leader