Catherine McAuley Westmead

Catherine McAuley Westmead and Mother Theresa Primary students enjoyed a special welcome back to school for Term 3 as they participated in a liturgy and smoking ceremony to honour NAIDOC Week.

The special celebration, which was organised by The Strong Sisters, Catherine McAuley’s Indigenous students, included a special speech from Elders Aunty Julie Clark-Jones, a proud freshwater saltwater Dharug Woman and Uncle Ted Langford, a proud Worimi person and a member of the Catholic Schools Parramatta Diocese (CSPD) Jarara Cultural Centre, who spoke to the students about the importance of elders. The theme for NAIDOC Week 2023 is ‘For Our Elders’.

Catherine McAuley Westmead

“It is always good to see everyone living, working and loving on Dharug country,” said Aunty Julie. “Our people have been in this area for over 65,000 years and they have continued their custodianship and sung, danced and walked this land since the very first sunrise, so thank you for having us back here at Catherine McAuley.

It was beautiful to walk through the gates again and feel like we were coming home.

Aunty Julie spoke about the importance of how elders throughout the generations have played, and continue to play, an important role and hold a prominent place in our communities.

“I have been blessed to grow up in a community full of elders and I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for my elders”, said Aunty Julie.

Our elders hold so much for us, they are our first teachers, our first farmers, our first nurturers, and it is really important that we acknowledge and honour their places and their traumas.

Aunty Julie encouraged all students to seek out an elder and have a conversation with them.

“Whether it be your grandmother, your aunty or your uncle, do something nice for them and most of all appreciate them because life is short and our elders hold all that knowledge for us,” she said.

Catherine McAuley Westmead

Uncle Ted told the Catherine McAuley and Mother Teresa community that it is a blessing to be able to come together to celebrate these special occasions.

“Sometimes we need to pause, think and appreciate just what we have,” he said. “In the school you celebrate many cultures but in particular we are celebrating the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.”

The liturgy concluded with a traditional smoking ceremony led by Aunty Julie, her daughter Shanaya, a Catherine McAuley student from the Class of 2021, and members of the CSPD Jarara Cultural Centre.

Students moved from their homerooms, where they had been watching the liturgy via live stream, and proceeded to walk through the smoke as it filled Mercy Square.


View photos from this event

Written By

Catholic Schools Parramatta Diocese

Catholic Schools Parramatta Diocese


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