Fully mobilised

"Our Mob" was the meaningful, resonant theme
of the recent Redfern Jarjum College Gala Night.

 WALKING WITH THE EXCLUDED 

These are excerpts from the Gala Night speech delivered by Katherine Zerounian, Principal of Redfern Jarjum College, at Sydney’s International Convention Centre on 15 June.

Katherine Zerounian, Principal of Redfern Jarjum College, shared several stories of success, as well as her five-year vision for the school. All images by Sam Eveleigh.

Our mob is the sound of clapsticks,
Our mob is the smell of onions cooking downstairs,
Our mob is the feeling of being welcomed like you’re family,
Our mob is the taste of lemon and ice,
Our mob is the sound of basketballs bouncing,
Our mob is the feeling of being warm on the inside and out,
Our mob is seeing people being deadly,
Our mob is the feeling you get when you pat a rabbit,
Our mob is the sensation of running freely on the field at lunch,  
Our mob is the taste of an omelette that you cooked yourself,
Our mob is the feeling of sitting on the floor and laughing,
Our mob is the sound of kids counting to 40 when they skip,
Our mob is happiness when you open a book that no one has read,
Our mob is knowing when you are hurt, somebody will fix you,
Our mob feels proud when they are celebrated at Gathering,
Our mob is different but the same,
Our mob is us.

The evening began with guests being welcomed with a traditional smoking ceremony.

This evening, we stand on Gadigal land and acknowledge the traditional owners and custodians of this country, one that is characterised by the natural highways of the rivers and harbour, a landscape of Gadi (grass trees) and dense bushland. This country is the land on which our young Jarjums, our future leaders, teachers, entrepreneurs, and our future Rabbitohs gather and learn each day. I’d like to pay respect to them, to their families and to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have come before them. I’d also like to recognise those First Nations people in the room tonight, as you are the most closely connected to our young Jarjums and our story. May the journey ahead see us all walk together towards a hope-filled future of connection and reconciliation.

Guests had the privilege of watching a live performance from the Kiris An Taran Torres Strait Islander Dance Group. 

We are incredibly grateful for your instrumental support and belief in our mission. We welcome you tonight as “Gamarada,” a Gadigal word meaning “friends,” and as part of “Our Mob,” our people, our family. This word embodies everything that we stand for at Redfern Jarjum College.

Zipporah Corser-Anu, a proud Torres Strait Islander woman from the Samu and Suy clans of Saibai, evocatively shared her culture through song.

To my incredible staff team, your unwavering dedication and tireless efforts on the frontline have never ceased to amaze me. The way you seamlessly step in to uplift and support one another is nothing short of remarkable. Your boundless energy and selfless contributions are not just inspiring but truly heartwarming.

Keynote speaker Andrea Adidi, Teacher Assistant and Culture Program Coordinator at the College, explained how Jarjum was a lifeline to her and her three children when she needed it most.

To our generous donors, your philanthropic generosity has been the lifeblood of our institution, providing vital resources and opportunities that transcend mere education. Since the concept of Jarjum first evolved, over 1,900 donors have given to our cause, and over $4.6 million in funds have been donated.

John Allen (left), Chair of the Redfern Jarjum College Board, was thanked for his eight years of service.

John Allen, Chair of our College Board, has shown selfless devotion to our school over the past eight years and embodied the ethos of service and compassion espoused by the Ignatian tradition. In recognition of your invaluable contributions, I invite former principal Mr Matt Smith, to present to you an artwork painted by local artist and Jarjum parent, Carly Bennett. This piece has been titled ‘Two Ways’ and is a visual expression of all the students and staff at Jarjum connecting the Aboriginal and whitefella way and learning more as a result. We hope this artwork finds a place in your home and serves as a reminder of the part that you have played in the Jarjum story. 

Founding member, Fr Ross Jones SJ, Rector of St Aloysius’ College, Milsons Point, led the community in grace.

Tonight holds profound significance for us, serving as a dual celebration of our past achievements and a clarion call to secure our future. The milestones we have achieved over the past decade stand as testaments to our unwavering commitment to excellence and inclusivity.

As they say in the classics, there was a packed house on the night.

Beyond the numerical metrics lie stories of resilience, empathy and transformative growth. These anecdotes, steeped in the ethos of Ignatian spirituality, illustrate the profound impact of our holistic approach to education. Let me share with you examples of what I experienced in my first two terms as principal.

On the final day of Term 1, I found myself teaching the Kindergarten class. As the hours ticked by, I shared the news with the students: they would be spending the next two weeks at home with their families instead of attending school. What I anticipated to be a moment of excitement and joy turned into something unexpected. Instead of cheers and jubilation, the room filled with genuine tears. Little ones, with quivering lips and misty eyes, expressed their sorrow at the thought of the school bus not arriving to collect them the following morning.

Actor Luke Carroll brought great entertainment and energy to the evening in his role as MC.

Secondly, in the final week of Term 2, a poignant scene unfolded at our front gate. Four graduates from 2022, now enrolled as Year 7 students at independent schools, stood there with a yearning to spend the initial days of their holiday break back at Jarjum.

The evening was a celebration of the journey of Redfern Jarjum College and Our Mob. The students’ presence was felt during the evening through their artwork.

One of the most challenging times for our students is during transition periods. This might be moving from different learning activities or between play and learning time. Our students can be sensitive to change, and a transition asks them to move from a familiar environment to one that is more inconsistent and unpredictable. While we have designed our timetable to minimise these changes, one unavoidable movement is taking our students to the local sports centre for lunchtime play. It is a four-minute walk, but usually the most high-risk activity of our day.

Imagine if we could open the classroom door and our students could run straight out onto an open space. Imagine if we didn’t have to continually tell the students “Please don’t run,” in the hour before school because space wasn’t an issue.

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