St Bede's Catholic College, Chisholm officially opens Ngarramalingiil yarning circle

St Bede's Catholic College, Chisholm officially opened their Ngarramalingiil yarning circle on Monday, September 18. 

Article originally published by The Maitland Mercury.

The new yarning circle at St Bede's Catholic College is already fostering community, connection and learning, while respecting the Wonnarua land the school is on.

More than 100 people gathered after school at St Bede's on Monday, September 18 for the grand opening and smoking ceremony of the yarning circle, called Ngarramalingiil.

During the ceremony, principal John Murphy said the opening of Ngarramalingiil is a significant moment in St Bede's history.

"Sacred areas such as yarning circles have been inbuilt into the richness of Aboriginal culture," he said.

"These spaces would be, and still are, where Aboriginal people come together to listen to the wisdom of the elders.

"By listening, the younger ones came to understand and to respect their culture, and to become custodians of the land.

"The telling of stories and celebrating of events through dance, symbolism, and art, are all dimensions of yarning circles that preserves and enriches Aboriginal culture."

Ngarramalingiil features symbols with carvings in the totem poles, the circular structure of the sandstone blocks, and the magnificent wedgetail eagle statue which is a Wonnarua totem representing guidance and protection.

Aboriginal education teacher Karen Chapman said the project has been several years in the making.

"We couldn't be prouder, it's been a labour of love," she said.

Wonnarua elder Uncle Leon Hammond performed the smoking ceremony, welcoming guests to wave the smoke towards themselves to immerse in its cleansing properties.

The students of St Bede's were very involved in the grand opening, with a large group taking part in a traditional clearing dance, a group of boys delivering a didgeridoo performance, and a band performing prayers in both English and Wirlpiri, an Indigenous language.

Mr Murphy said the yarning circle symbolises the past, present and future, and is a place to represent what the St Bede's community stands for.

"In building St Bede's, which commenced at the start of 2017, it was important for us to ensure the rightful owners of this land, the Wonnarua people, would become part of the St Bede's story," he said.

"We wanted a yarning circle that would invite us as a community to be united with Indigenous and non-Indigenous community members, growing together in the spirit of reconciliation, cultural understanding and growth."

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