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  What Works - The Work Program

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The 'East–West' experience

[Extracts from Thomson, J (1998) Demonstrating Best Practice in Aboriginal Education: Working Together Towards a Brighter Future, Crossways and the South Australian Division of State Aboriginal Affairs.]

Mr Frank Lampard, from the South Australian Aboriginal Education and Training Advisory Committee spoke on two topics.

  1. What it is like to be an Aboriginal person. He spoke of being different, owning and enjoying his culture.
  2. What it is like to be an Aboriginal person in a predominantly white society; indicating things such as misunderstandings, lack of recognition, and his commitment to addressing change (reconciliation).

Pastor Denis Obst, Mission Director, Lutheran Synod South Australia, then asked for small mixed groups to discuss what good things had happened at Crossways in its first 10 years of life. Points were listed around the room and group leaders reported back. When this short session was concluded the groups were asked to list their fears involved in having children in a mixed enrolment school. There was spirited discussion at report back time. The main factor revealed was the great burden of stereotyping a whole race of people.

The Aboriginal people present reassured non-Aboriginal people that, in many cases, their fears were unlikely to become reality. Full and frank discussion took place in a spirit of goodwill.

Pastor Obst then asked the group to give points that members wished to thank God for in what Crossways had done for each of the participant’s children. As these were called, he wrote a prayer on an overhead projector sheet. When this was completed, all stood in a large semicircle, clasped hands and said the prayer together.

For participants, this was a very real and emotional experience, and many today still consider that it was the turning point for a better Christian Education for all children.

While the meeting dealt with a difficult and sensitive issue, it was, for most present, a very liberating experience. Never before had any of them expressed their fears, prejudices and concerns in such an open way. Some had never had a conversation of any significance with a person from the other cultural group. Lines of communication were opened up. Many felt somewhat cleansed of their feelings of guilt when suppressed feelings were exposed. There was acknowledgement of the wounds and fears of both groups, which is a necessary prerequisite for healing to take place. Both groups could see how prejudice had affected their attitudes and relationships.

The scene was set for a true program of reconciliation to commence amongst the Crossways School Community in 1993.


The prayer from the meeting

Thank you God for:

teachers who respect and socialise with the school community;
giving us quality Christian education;
the opportunities to work with multicultural family groups;
the total caring atmosphere of the school;
the extended family;
Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal staff;
the implementation of anti-racism;
a school council that listens;
all children being on the same level because of uniforms;
children enjoying their schooling;
the school catering for children with disabilities;
teaching children to be tolerant of others in a Christian way;
discipline in a friendly, Christian spirit;
the school providing opportunities for worship.

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