Ellen Jose Reconciliation Award Finalist

Now in their second year, the Ellen Jose Awards encourage Bayside primary and secondary school students to consider “What Reconciliation means through their eyes” in an artwork or piece of writing. This year’s winners were awarded their prizes by Dr Joseph Toscano of the Ellen Jose Memorial Foundation and Cr Clarke Martin, Bayside Mayor to mark the commencement of Reconciliation Week. There was one winner in the years 7 to 10 category and four finalists. We congratulate our year 9 student, Louie Harris-Ure, on being recognised as a finalist within this category. Louie shares the inspiration for his submission below.

“From my experiences at Warruwi last year, I have a better understanding of the importance of reconciliation with the original owners of the land. Warruwi is a beautiful community that gave me an insight into indigenous culture and daily life as well as the ongoing challenges caused by colonisation.  It helped me think about how we can all work to make things equal and fair and create opportunities that benefit all Australians.”

St Leonard’s College has developed a strong partnership with the Warruwi Community School. Through immersive programs, including camps, for both St Leonard’s College students and those of the Warruwi Community School, real and lasting connections have been forged. These experiences provide a deep understanding and appreciation of our country’s Indigenous heritage, history and life. Our students are inspired to undertake a range of fundraising and awareness-building activities to support the education of their Warruwi friends. St Leonard’s College was recognised as a finalist in the Reconciliation Victoria and VLGA 2020 HART (Helping Achieve Reconciliation Together) Awards. These awards recognise outstanding reconciliation initiatives such as this Warruwi Community School Partnership.

Inspired by the Warruwi experience, Louie’s Reconciliation submission is featured below. St Leonard’s College is incredibly proud of Louie for his commitment and contribution to reconciliation.


What Reconciliation Means to Me

by Louie Harris-Ure

Warruwi is a small Indigenous community on South Goulburn Island in the Arafura sea.
Approximately four hundred people live there. There is only one grocery shop, a school, a
small clinic, a police station, a footy oval and an arts centre. Last year I was lucky enough
to travel to the beautiful community of Warruwi as part of my school’s Indigenous-non-
Indigenous partnership programme.

We spent four days in Warruwi helping at the school, mud crab hunting, listening and
playing Indigenous music and visiting the picturesque coastline. These four days were
probably some of the happiest days of my life. The people at Warruwi were the most
cheerful I’ve ever met and the funniest.

The best part about the trip was visiting the school every day and helping the kids with their
learning and playing with them at lunch and recess. I made special friendships and
connections with everybody at Warruwi school.

After our trip some of the kids from Warruwi came down to Melbourne to see what it was
like at a school in the city and also what it was like in Victoria. Our family was lucky enough
to be accepted to home stay one of the boys for the weekend, and we had one of the best
weekends I have ever had, spending time biking, swimming, laughing and learning

Going to Warruwi and having kids visit from there taught me a lot of things, including that
we need to appreciate the little things and how lucky we are. It made me realise that
Melbourne compared to Warruwi is very different but it also showed me what the land
would look like in Melbourne if we didn’t invade it. It also made me think about what
reconciliation means to me, and what it means to be living in this land that originally wasn’t
ours but the Indigenous Australians.

So what does reconciliation mean to me? Well from my experiences in South Goulburn
Island, reconciliation is to unite non-Indigenous and Indigenous and embrace each other’s
cultures and traditions in this place where everybody that lives here can call home. Also we
should all accept and welcome all cultures in Australia, which means having equal chances
for jobs, education and health. Furthermore we should celebrate our differences and teach
each other traditions and ideas to create a diverse yet equal Australia.

But to achieve reconciliation we need to do a lot of things. Most importantly, non-
Indigenous people need to respect whose land we are living on and what it means to those
people. We need to understand our history, and address the disregard for the many
Indigenous nations and names of our land. We will only find what it means to be Australian
through recognising the original custodians.

For reconciliation, I also believe we need to change the date of Australia Day, a day when
the traditional owners of this land mourn that their country was stripped of them, the land
that they’ve loved, lived on and nurtured and where hundreds of Aboriginal nations and
cultures thrived for over sixty thousand years. We need to think creatively about our national
days of celebration and commemoration. January 26th could still be recognised but as a
day of sombre and reflective remembrance like Anzac Day. Our national day of celebration
could be another important date in the history of our nation that genuinely brings together
all Australians. For example, May 27 could become Australia Day in acknowledgment of
the date in 1967 when the referendum was held that recognised Indigenous people as

So I hope over the upcoming Reconciliation Week we can reflect on experiences regarding
Indigenous culture, share stories and push for harmony. I firmly agree with the wise words
of Lance McDonald, a Luritja man from central Australia who speaks nine Indigenous
languages, and is the first Aboriginal man to translate the United Nations Charter of Human
Rights into Luritja, who says ‘I believe that we as a nation should work together in order to
make the nation a better place’. We can all have a better understanding and knowledge
of people’s lives and further work on making changes and getting involved in campaigns
for equal rights and reconciliation. Above all, reconciliation to me is all of us learning about
Indigenous culture, the reality of Australian history, and what it means for non-Indigenous
people to honestly connect with Indigenous people, so we can all make positive changes
now and in the future to create an equal Australia.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-01-26/what-do-remote-aboriginal-communities-thinkof-australia-day/9363470 accessed 2/5/20