Schools PCA matters: leading culturally responsive schools

A smoking ceremony held last at Boronia West Primary School was an important day in the school’s quest to build a more inclusive culture.

In early December last year, we held a smoking ceremony at Boronia West Primary School. It was an important day in the long history of the school. The ceremony, led by local elders, was to signify the new birth of the school. We had embraced a new logo, new uniform and child friendly values to make a new start and invigorate enrolment. 

Our new logo features a tree, in a nod to the past, and revitalised the school motto: ‘Growing through learning’. We had been successful in gaining a grant through the Aboriginal Small Grants Program, supported by community health organisation EACH, and planted a new Indigenous tree, which was deemed our Learning Tree. In terms of fostering a connection with our indigenous families, and indeed all families, this was a pivotal moment.

We had built strong relationships with many people in our community to support our goal of cultural inclusion.

When I arrived at Boronia West three years ago we had a significant number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students but no program or curriculum that explicitly addressed their culture, history or heritage. As a school leader, I recognised the need to follow the government’s Marrung statement and implement genuine inclusive practices. As a staff, we undertook the Cultural Understanding & Safety Training (CUST) and we have now embedded cultural inclusion and diverse understandings in our documented curriculum.

As we stood outside the front of the school, waiting for the community to gather for our ceremony, I reflected upon our journey to this point. We had built strong relationships with many people in our community to support our goal of cultural inclusion.

Our collective connection was never stronger as we paid our respects to the Wurundjeri people. In the acknowledgement of country, I said the words: …for they hold the memories, the traditions, the culture and the hopes of Aboriginal Australia. We remember that under the buildings, concrete and asphalt this land was, and always will be, traditional Aboriginal land….And I might have been just a bit emotional and proud.

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