Opening with an Acknowledgement of Country and the Wakakulang Dancers, led by Michael Heitmeyer, the Aboriginal students from All Saints’ College followed with prayer and introductions.
This year’s theme ‘Because of Her, We Can’ will echo through the gardens of All Saints’ College, St Mary’s Campus, for years to come as guest speaker and former student, Tara Dever, shared her story by defining what it means to be a proud Wiradjuri woman today.
Tara opened by acknowledging the Wonnarua people as the traditional owners and custodians of the land and continued by acknowledging the Wonnarua Elders and people present at the assembly.
“I am humbled by both your presence and support as we gather here today with 80 thousand years of our ancestors standing beside us,” said Tara.
Tara continued by acknowledging the ‘tough crowd’ she was speaking to, “a room full of my family, my Elders and my contemporaries; along with a couple of my children, whose only advice was, don’t go over 5 minutes mum, no one wants to listen to that.”
Tara shared with the crowd that her real cause for concern was that her mother was in the room and she would hate for her own journey of growth and strength to make her mother feel sad or ashamed, as Tara explained “I am everything I am today because of her, thank you mum, I love you.”
“In the early 1900’s my grandmother, on the death of her mother Bridgette, at age three, was removed from her country and family and sent to Sydney spending the next 15 years in a Catholic girls’ home and convent. The stage was set, we were now Catholic.”
Tara engaged the audience with her authentic recount of growing up in Muswellbrook as the eldest of six children. She talked of her time weeding gardens at the local convent as she fondly remembered the “sisterhood” of nuns that supported her mother after her father left the family and the patriarchal church at the time turned its back on her family.
Tara shared inspiring lessons she learnt from nuns and strong women, mostly her mother, that have shaped who she is today stating “I am born from this activist generation and I still have a fire in my belly”.
Following the assembly, the All Saints’ College Indigenous students escorted special guests to the St Mary’s café to share lunch with the community.