Itji-Marru Aboriginal Resource Centre celebrates 25 years

The history of Itji-Marru Aboriginal Resource Centre at Morisset High School

Itji-Marru Aboriginal Resource Centre is situated in the former headmaster’s residence on the grounds of the original Morisset Public School. In May 1992, Dr Sharon Parkes, then the Assistant Director of Educational programs and Planning Chairperson for Regional Aboriginal Education Advisory Committee (RAEAC), sent a letter to the Morisset High School Principal, Mr Warren Evans. The letter said that the application for funding for the Aboriginal Resource Centre had been approved. The centre was officially opened by Clair Saggus and Michael Davidson (dec) on Tuesday 21 July 1992.

The committee that was instrumental in the opening of it:

  • Principal: Warren Evans
  • Leading Teacher: Lyndy Russell
  • Cluster Director: Laurie Tabart
  • RAEAC: Sharon Parkes
  • RACLO: Clare Saggus
  • Ab Ed Coordinator: Deborah Beard
  • AEA: Veronika Bailey
  • Resource Officer: Jim Bailey.

And local community Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. Veronika Bailey was the first Aboriginal Education Assistant.

Thomas Smith built the brick school and four-room residence plus kitchen and pantry for 900 pounds. It was completed on 3 July 1891 and opened with 6 pupils but that soon increased to 29. Morisset Public School was opened in August 1891, and by 1909 about 70 pupils were enrolled. It became a central school from January 1951 until January 1965, when it reverted to a public school. Morisset High School opened in January 1965.

Itji-Marru Aboriginal Resource Centre is still in the original building, built in 1890.

The purpose of the Centre was to provide a focus on Aboriginal Education for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students, staff, parents and community.

The Centre’s aims were to promote understanding of Aboriginal culture past and present, and to provide resources for student, school and community use.

On 19 March 1998, the Honorable Andrew Refshauge MP, Minister for Health and Aboriginal Affairs, visited Itji-Marru Aboriginal Resource Centre for a tour of the Centre and a didgeridoo performance by Adam Yates AEA.

Speeches were given by Merv Newman, the Regional Aboriginal Liaison Officer, and Chloe Stead, a Year 9 student. Our then member for Lake Macquarie, Jeff Hunter, introduced the visiting MP and Paul Brown was the Principal at this time.

Our current Aboriginal Education Officer (AEO) is Selena Archibald. She is a Kamilaroi woman originally from Moree who has been with the school for 18 years, supporting the students, staff and community to help students achieve their best possible outcomes.

It is pleasing to say that all the hard work back then is continuing to thrive today as the Centre is still running closely along the lines it was originally opened for. In 1992 there were 29 Aboriginal students; currently we have 91 Aboriginal students. So we can say with pride: Aboriginal Education has been and still is a focus of our school.

To further support the implementation of Aboriginal Education at Morisset High School we have developed:

  • a Bush Tucker Garden / Outdoor Learning Area.
  • a Learning Circle. The Learning Circle is a whole-school resource, which is situated next to our AG farm, and along with our garden is used to help educate everyone about Aboriginal Australia, history, foods, and caring for the land.
  • an Aboriginal Education Action Team—this team meets every two weeks.
  • a partnership with Itji-Marru AECG (Aboriginal Education Consultative Group). The AECG is a community-based organisation made up of volunteers. Their vision is to provide advice on all matters relevant to education and training with the mandate that this advice represents the Aboriginal community viewpoint. It promotes respect; it advocates cultural affirmation, integrity and pursuit of equality to ensure that the unique and diverse identity of Aboriginal students is recognised and valued.

We also run programs such as Sista Speak, Bro Speak and didge group for our students. These programs help support our students with their cultural identity and connections.

We proudly hold activities that involve all our students so as we are learning together of our Australian Aboriginal history through significant activities and events.

Story contributed by Selena Archibald from Morisett High School. Story published in 2018.