May the 31st 2017 was a special night for the Bawurra Foundation as we successfully hosted our first public event. The event consisted of a film screening and Q&A session which was held at NSW Parliament House, Sydney, in partnership with Walanga Muru, Macquarie University’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Centre, and MQISA, Macquarie University's Indigenous Student Association. Over fifty activists and students were in attendance for the screening.
The screening of the Asia Pacific Screen Awards 2011 UNESCO Screen Award winner Toomelah, with the accompanying expert panel discussion aimed to examine the problems that Indigenous Youth face in remote communities and to discuss how the future of the children in these
communities can be improved.
Toomelah depicts how ten-year-old Daniel’s life is changed after dropping out of school in Toomelah, a former mission near the Queensland border. This documentary-like portrait of the lives of a handful of people on the edge of a desperately disadvantaged community is reflective of the current implications of the persisting Literacy Gap.
Members of the Q&A panel included: David Harris - Member for Wyong, Shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Shadow Minister for Regional Development & Shadow minister for the Central Coast, Dr Alasdair Murrie-West - Principal of Dunmore Lang College, Emily Sutton - Indigenous Student Support Officer at Walanga Muru and Jesse Slok - Co-founder and Chairman of the Bawurra Foundation.
The night began with an opening address and an Acknowledgment of Country, followed by the screening of the film and a Q&A session. Discussions were centred around the scenarios presented in the film, before an examination took place on what was being done to counteract the major issues facing similar communities in NSW.
The panel debated whether the members felt that the current educational systems in NSW celebrated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, and what could be added or improved to help engage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in an effort to bridge the Gap. At the heart of the discussion was the impact that Reconciliation would have on the lives of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. Jesse Slok brought this to the attention of the audience, as he concluded the night by asking the audience; “what does a reconciled Australia look like to you?”
The night proved to be an important milestone for the Foundation. The presence and engagement of so many passionate members in the audience showed how important it is that we must recognise the issues rural and isolated Indigenous Youth face and the pivotal role that education plays in addressing them.