St Joseph's Primary School Laurieton unveils Birrbay totems on December 6, 2017

St Joseph’s Primary School Laurieton hosted a special assembly on December 6 to unveil seven totems for acknowledgement of indigenous culture. 

The school’s principal David Hughes welcomed guests to the event including Birrbay elder Uncle Bill, Birrbay artist Tony Clark and Steven Donovan who provided a performance on the didgeridoo to accompany students in a dance.

The school’s Indigenous education officer Leanne Parsons said the unveiling of the totems was a significant occasion. 

“There has been a sense of longing among indigenous students and their parents to have something which marks their culture,” she said. 

“It gives them a sense of belonging and ownership.” 

Leanne said it’s important for children to learn that people may be different colours but it’s what’s in your heart that matters. 

St Joseph’s Regional College student and Leanne’s daughter Nikki Parsons read her piece of writing at the event which was the overall winner for the The Whitlam Institute’s 2017 What Matters? Writing Competition.

Nikki’s piece called for the traditional Aboriginal languages of each community to be taught in the school curriculum. She was named a finalist from 1100 entries and took out the year 7-8 category in Sydney.

A grant from Indigenous Affairs funded the totem project at St Joseph’s Primary School Laurieton. 

Each class was given a totem to design and decorate and local Birrbay artist Tony Clark was given the task to make the totems from locally sourced timber.