Reconciliation Australia celebrated their night of nights with the fourth Narragunnawali Awards on Friday evening, to celebrate the achievements of Australian schools who have successfully implemented outstanding Reconciliation Action Plan (RAPs) initiatives.
Recipients of this year's awards were Winterfold Primary School which is on Noongar Country in Beaconsfield, Western Australia and South Australia's Stirling District Kindergarten, located on Kaurna Country in Stirling.
Narragunnawali is a Ngunnawal word which translates to - alive, wellbeing, coming together and peace.
Held at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra, the atmosphere of the event encapsulated the significance of the word, attracting representatives from schools, early learning centres and communities from nationwide.
Attendees included Ngunnawal Elder Uncle Warren Daley who opened the even with a warm Welcome to Country and Bangerang and Wiradjuri woman and Indigenous education advocate Aunty Geraldine Atkinson.
CEO of Reconciliation Australia Karen Mundine, prominent Yes Campaign leader Kristie Parker, NITV's John Paul Janke, Reconciliation Australia Board Director Sharon Davis and several First Nations Government Officials from agencies such as Prime Minister in Cabinet, National Indigenous Australians Agency and Department of Education were also in attendance.
Guests were treated to a performance by Melbourne-based Indigenous singer-songwriter Jess Hitchcock, who is making waves defying genres shining in opera, pop, country, folk and musical theatre. Hitchcock recently collaborated and toured with the late Archie Roach and Paul Kelly.
"This is a very special time because these are the only national awards that recognise Australian schools and early learning services who are kicking goals in reconciliation," event emcee John Paul Janke said.
Mr Janke highlighted the potential life and community changing power of initiatives such as these when implemented in the education space.
Reconciliation Australia, CEO Karen Mundine said she was heartened by the outstanding reconciliation work going on in schools and early learning services across the country.
"After the disappointment of the referendum result it is wonderful to witness the profound contribution that these places are making towards a more just and reconciled Australia," she said.
"There is still so much work to be done to enable a greater understanding of our history and the legacy of colonialism which still haunts so many First Nations people.
"I can see these changes happening in our education system. Young Australians are opening their hearts and gaining the skills to effectively contribute to reconciliation.
"This is why events like the Narragunnawali Awards are so important. It is about celebrating educators and community members out there, doing the hard work, learning and unlearning, and creating lasting relationships."
Education leader and Oxford scholar, Sharon Davis presented the winners their awards.
In their opening speeches they first acknowledged the Ngunnawal people and their Elders, extending the acknowledgement to all people and families who have connection to this land and all First Nations teachers and educators who are bringing up raising young Indigenous people to be informed and engaged citizens.
They continued to say that it is Indigenous peoples' ability to share and grow knowledge which is why First Nations culture and people are so strong today.
"I've noticed incredible stories of schools and early learning centres putting relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, cultures and communities at the heart of their institutions. Like so much else, often teachers and educators have achieved with little of way of resources and time.
"Sometimes all it has taken is for one champion, one champion for reconciliation to completely change the trajectory of our school or service and consequently many young people's lives" they said.
Mx Davis said Winterfold Primary School inspired the judges due to strong connections to their local Noongar community and a vigilant policy of anti-racism.
"Winterfold's principal told the judges that reconciliation and anti-racism was at the core of the school's culture and curriculum, and this was obvious to us all when we visited the school," they said
"The use of Noongar language and the school's clearly warm and supportive relationship with Noongar Elders, parents and kids was wonderful to witness."
Mx Davis said Srtirling Kindergarten were passionate about reconciliation and respectful to members of the local Kaurna communities.
"The use of the local Kaurna language and Stirling's engagement with Kaurna Elder, Uncle Tamaru - who teaches the children Kaurna language, and knowledge about ceremony, culture, plants, and animals - is a great credit to the service and the families it serves," they said.
"Over the history of the awards and in my time working with the Narragunnawali program, I have witnessed incredible stories of schools and early learning services putting relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, cultures and communities at the heart of their institutions.
"Like so much else, often teachers and educators have achieved this with little in the way of resources and time."
Other finalists who received recognition from Reconciliation Australia for their accomplishments were Kwoorabup Nature School (Denmark, WA), Kellyville Public School (Kellyville, NSW), Wyong Preschool Kindergarten (Wyong, NSW) and Little Beacons Learning Centre (Pakenham, VIC).