Message Sticks saying "sorry"

A Place to Call Home

Woodridge State High School has one of the largest Indigenous school populations in Logan City. The school has established the Bulkairi space as an intentional place where Indigenous students can meet. Jade HORROBIN and Alicja RUDZ report the space is an empowering place for students.

EVERY child needs a safe place. The Bulkairi Space provides exactly that for students at Woodridge State High School.

Woodridge was one of the first schools in Logan to create an Indigenous-focused space that supports students and the community with educational and counselling resources, as well as a safe place where students can freely express themselves.

The Bulkairi space has been running since 2007. Community Education Counsellor Justine Cooper and Teacher Aide Bronywn Ahsee said that the Bulkairi Space offers a second home to some of the 80 Indigenous students who have access to the space on a daily basis.

“We’re just trying to make the kids proud of themselves and give them a pat on the back when they need it,” says Justine.

“We won’t have our mob against each other, we’re all family here,” she said.

The team goes above and beyond to help break the stereotypes associated with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

“The perception of our Indigenous community is that we’re all down at the park sniffing glue, and that we steal and beat our women,” says Justine.
“Our kids are nothing like that.

“These are definitely still issues and for some reason it’s highlighted within the Indigenous community, but these things happen in other cultures too and not just in this area,” she said.

Working side-by-side with the students and their families, the Bulkairi Space team fosters a united community through mentoring, community group partnerships, cross-cultural workshops, and helping youth to get involved in sporting and cultural activities.

This year in May, the team was also responsible for organising a school-wide project to commemorate National Sorry Day.

Each class created Indigenous message sticks with heart-felt messages that the students read out during a special school assembly.

Traditional wood sticks with painted messages were often used as a way of communicating between Aboriginal mobs and signified safe passage into another nation’s territory for the one who carried the stick.

One class message read: “Stolen hearts, stolen children, stolen generation, we are sorry.”

One English as a Second Language (ESL) class also volunteered a considerate and genuine apology to the stolen generation showing  the influence of the Bulkairi Space  in integrating students from different cultures at Woodridge.

It read: “As a class of many different cultures, from many different countries, we would like to say sorry for the sadness of the Stolen Generation. We would like to say THANK YOU for this wonderful country.”

“The ILC (Intensive Language Centre) and ESL classes really get involved in all our activities – they love it because they can relate to our stories,” says Bronywn.

Helping Indigenous and other cultures to come together, the Bulkari Space is a small area making a big difference where it’s most needed.

 

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