Some time ago, whilst teaching North of Perth, I was able to visit the small monastic town of New Norcia, located 120km North of Perth. Nestled on either side of the Great Northern Highway, it is a foreboding sight; large buildings and beautiful cathedrals rise out of the red dirt and you can’t help but be mesmerised by the grandeur of the place.
However, what I wasn’t fully prepared for, were the stories that lurked behind the walls! I say this because for many, New Norcia is a town that reminds them of a dark time in the history of our nation, a time when Noongar and other Aboriginal children were taken away from their families and placed in institutions and missions, like this one in New Norcia.
Last week, on Sorry Day, an annual part of Reconciliation Week our very own Lisa Dann told her family story of her mother, Vonita Anna Walley and her and her siblings’ removal to St Mary’s New Norcia. We cannot even begin to imagine the pain of this experience, particularly not in the Australia we know today, but Reconciliation Week reminds us that reconciliation must live in the hearts, minds and actions of all Australians as we move forward.
Our Catholic Faith teaches us about the power of reconciliation repeatedly – it’s actually a pretty big deal to God! God asks us to be bringers of reconciliation to others, to love others and to show them forgiveness and I like to think this is something we do in our Kolbe community quite well.
Vonita speaks of this powerfully in the video below when she says ‘we must forgive. I’ve always been a peacekeeper, and this is something I’d like to teach. We cannot be angry’.
If we could apply even a tiny part of this to our lives, in our families and at Kolbe, we would collectively be working towards families and communities that are thriving.
Thank you Lisa and Vonita and your family, for being a voice for the generations, thank you for your story.
Anita O’Donohue (Vice Principal)