Tuesday 13th February was the 10th Anniversary of the National Apology to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for the mistakes, the crimes and the institutional disadvantage that has resulted for First Nations communities through colonisation and the dispossession of traditional lands and culture. The last 230 years has seen some very dark and regrettable chapters in Australian history, such as the Stolen Generation where children were taken from their families under forced re-settlement schemes as a result of government policies. Between 1910 and 1970, hundreds of children were taken from their families, producing reverberations and pain that survive to this day; those that blend with other forms of injustice that have resulted in such disparate outcomes for First Nations people when compared to the rest of Australia. While there has been progress over the last half a century through the 1967 Referendum and the Wik legislation, much more work still needs to be done to acknowledge the harm and trauma that occurred through white settlement, and which continues to impact negatively on the health and wellbeing of many Indigenous Australians today. It is a time to be mindful of the wrongs of the past, to look with a critical eye on the current shortfalls in education, health care and the criminal justice system, and to commit to a future where all Australians – Indigenous and non-Indigenous, have equal access to the same opportunities and outcomes.
The College is very proud of the First Nations program which sees 35 boys from Year 7 to Year 12 undertake targeted learning and study programs under the direction of Mr Anthony Reilly. Over the last 20 years, dozens of young men have graduated from Riverview and undertaken university studies and gainful work in a variety of sectors, from the building industry and hospitality to professions with companies such as Westpac and BHP. These young men will go on to become leaders of their communities and work with non-Indigenous Australians to cultivate a future based upon mutuality and inclusion as this nation seeks to reconcile its fractured past. Thus far, Australia has yet to produce an indigenous Prime Minister; something that we all look forward to into the future. And, maybe it is from schools like Riverview that such a person may come: a school with a deep commitment to reconciliation, a school that cultivates aspiration, a school that promotes the cause of inclusion and justice. Three weeks ago, six young First Nations boys joined the ranks of the boarders in Year 7, young men of ambition, drive and capacity. It may be one of them who will benefit by the education that he receives and, fired by a spirit of civic duty, take up the challenge of community and political leadership. Let us work together to build a school and a community that will see the sentiments of the National Apology carried through and lived out with integrity and commitment.
On Wednesday the liturgical calendar moved into Lent, symbolically entered through the distribution of ashes in the Ramsay Hall. While Ash Wednesday has a non-Christian origin, it was accepted into the beliefs of the Church at the Council of Nicea in 325 ACE. In contemporary times, the period of 40 days (not counting Sundays) before Easter is when Christians reflect on the death and resurrection of Jesus through self-examination, prayer, repentance, fasting and self-denial. It is also a time to consider and reconcile those aspects of daily life where there is room for growth. That may be in healing broken relationships, in giving generously to support causes that assist the marginalised and disadvantaged, or in deepening faith through prayer and reflection on the passion and the true meaning of Easter. May the weeks ahead be a time of renewal and growth.
Over recent weeks, much progress has been made on the Therry Building. Windows have been installed on the northern face and roof capping has been completed on the main section and the western node. Internal walls are being constructed and ceilings are ready for installation over the coming weeks. Much of the engineering infrastructure associated with the outdoor learning areas between the Vaughn and Therry buildings has been completed in preparation for the stone and outdoor access points that will provide the interface between the internal space and external landscape architecture. Over the next month, some dramatic changes will begin to appear on the western and north-eastern nodes as the steel work is enclosed with windows and treatments that give shape to the final product, as the latter stages of the building program come into view. It is projected that the building will be ready for occupancy at the beginning of next term, so the intensive movement of desks, chairs, fixtures, faculty requisites and the like will take place over the break in readiness for the start of Term 2. Excitement builds as increased definition of the building occurs on a daily basis, so there is much to look forward to over the weeks ahead.
During the week, Dr John Sheehy, a long time supporter of the agricultural program at the College, donated two steers which will be fed, fattened and prepared for the Royal Easter Show over the coming months. While Riverview has a small agricultural program, it is very important for the boys who come from rural Australia where much of the parlance revolves around stock, grain and technology – the latter of which is revolutionising the industry. The College ‘punches above its weight’ in a number of the regional shows and it has taken major honours at the Royal Easter Show over many years. To benefactors like John, the College extends a statement of sincere gratitude for providing the boys with tangible opportunities to participate in areas of the curriculum for which they have a passion and to shine in the public forum.
Best wishes for the week ahead.