2015 National Sorry Day Assembly

May 25, 2015

As is its annual custom, St Patrick’s College today marked National Sorry Day with a full school assembly in the Br. W.T. O’Malley Sports Centre.

In 2015, the College has 51 indigenous students enrolled, including 11 in Year 12.

One of those Year 12 students, Christopher Saunders, presented this speech at the assembly.

“Welcome and hello to all my brothers, sisters, aunties and uncles and all you mob from around our country and from different countries, I would like to acknowledge that underneath the concrete and structure we stand on Wathaurong land, traditional lands of the Kulin nations.

I would like to start by acknowledging the struggle of us Aboriginal people, my name is Christopher Saunders and I’m a proud decedent of the Gunditjmara, Gundidj-Kilcarer clan from South-West Victoria. I would also like to acknowledge ALL who have built this College and still are caring for this land and whose traditions have shaped the pillars of faith, hope, excellence and tradition.

On this day we celebrate the 19th year of Australia’s National Reconciliation Week, where Australia aims to celebrate indigenous history and culture through activities, functions or actions of making one view or belief compatible with another.

To me being aboriginal comes with an extreme sense of pride in being traditional owners of the land now known as Australia. Being a part of and continuing the oldest living culture in the world and in some cases doing something many of our family members or friends may never had a chance to do, is something that this prestigious College offers many indigenous boys from all over Australia. For example in 2008, Calvin Anzac, was the first of the program travelling from Timber Creek to Ballarat enabling him an education and access to boarding facilities within St Patrick’s College. Since 2011 there have been a number of indigenous students on the same program who have finished a Year 12 course. These numbers have been growing and it was evident last year when 10 Year 12 indigenous students graduated. This year we will break that record with an expected 11 students graduating. This may not seem a lot to you, but from where we come from, we are considered the tip of the spear head impacting our communities in such a way encouraging and imposing a sense of pride within our communities.

To me this school has become a beacon of reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous children and families all over Australia. St Pat’s has given an abundance of opportunities to a number of indigenous students that have attended this school. I, myself have well enjoyed my time at St Pat’s because of the many choices I have been given, which back home would not have been considered. I have represented St Pat’s in the Victorian Schools Rugby Union, debated and argued in the Victorian Parliament as an ambassador of the 2014 Youth Parliament, I have started a program called Based – engaging young indigenous and Torres Strait islander students from around Ballarat schools to connect with other indigenous and Torres Strait islanders from around the area. St Pat’s has been instrumental in giving me an education and crucially important in me being able to do these things which is unheard of in my community in south west Victoria.

The point of this is that none of these successes I have achieved would have ever been imagined if not for the opportunity and education outfitted by St Pat’s. It is an honour to be part of this great school, but also part of an important aspect of the school. It is with pride I wear my aboriginal badge on my suit coat and it is with corresponding self-respect I give thanks to St Pat’s for the opportunities accustomed to me and the rest of my brothers in the indigenous program and to those in the future of this program at St Pat’s.

Thank you very much.-‹”