The High School finalist artworks included in this year’s Schools Reconciliation Challenge exhibition, showcase students’ visions for reconciliation in Australia. By engaging with the 2023 theme ‘What Stories Will You Dream?’, schools and students acknowledged the many stories that celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ cultures and histories and endeavoured to explore what stories we leave behind for generations to come.

Top image credit: Water Ways Dreaming © Zachary Knibbs-Peckham. Nepean Creative and Performing Arts High School.

High School artwork finalists

High School writing finalists

“I have a dream”. When Martin Luther King Jr. wrote this speech Australia had a long way to come. Now we have travelled further than a lot of people thought we would have, although we still have a long way to go. As a non-Indigenous person, I want to be a part of that change, I want to make this Australia better for those to come. “I have a dream”, I also have a dream, a dream for a reconciled future, where everyone, First Nations people or not, understands our shared past, an understanding of our First Nations people and an understanding of how to make progress. This is a dream I hope multiple people throughout our country have. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin…” and I share this dream with him, I have a dream that the children of this country will no longer make assumptions about someone because of the colour of another person’s skin. That my Aboriginal brother will not be growing up in Australia where he’ll be judged, criticized, and attacked because his skin is a few shades darker than mine. “I have a dream”, a dream that one day he will be able to learn about his culture, his language, and his history from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s perspective. The culture he shares with many will be taught in schools all around Australia. “I have a dream” a dream that there is no us and them, that we are equal, equal opportunities, equal respect, equal incarceration rates and equal hope. “I have a dream”, my dream is that the gap is closed, Australia’s past is uncovered and we, Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, can embody the concept of “Makarrata” and walk together after a struggle for a more reconciled and just future.

Author: Ellie Wentworth Brown
School: Loreto Normanhurst
Category: High school writing

Author'sstatement: In “A Dream of “Makarrata”: Walking Together for a Better Future” I express my shared dream with Martin Luther King Jr. a dream for a reconciled future in Australia where everyone, regardless of their background, understands our shared past and how to make progress. I dream of an Australia where there is no “us and them,” and where we are all equal in terms of opportunities, respect, incarceration rates, and hope. I dream of an Australia where the gap is closed, and the country’s past is uncovered. I hope that Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians can embody the Yolngu word, mentioned in the Uluru Statement from the Heart, “Makarrata” which means coming together after a struggle, facing the facts of wrongs, and living again in peace. Like Martin Luther King Jr., I have a dream that the children of this country will no longer make assumptions about someone because of the colour of another person’s skin. I hope that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s culture will be taught in schools all around Australia.

Those who go to Terra Australis
Take in the beauty, rich and rare we hold
Where we are, its history has malice
Of strife, of hurt, and the need for some gold
Alas, our elders have taken their home
But yet to end our century-long need
To get back the fields where which can we roam
Away from those who know nothing but greed
Smoke and triumph win our hearts, satisfied
As the road to true peace is in our grasp
Unite with our hearts, our souls and our mind
For the future, for our kids, a world to enclasp
We sit around the fire of life, of dreams
A dream of a trail trekked to close the seams

I dream a dream of a land down under
Whereas far as I can see, where we roam
Dreams dreamt without hurt, made out of wonder
Red soils soiling our hearts, rusting our chrome
On river’s edge, others said to what end?
Places sowed to grow, to help cultivate
And build bridges, gifting flowers to mend
Our broken tome, as it’s never too late
Rain pours softly on the soil, the dry sands
May the world be at peace for our children
We do not know, but with our hearts in hands
Viōlence must end, we do not know when
Ahead of us lays a path, uncertain
But it’s a while until closing the curtain

Yet, simple as it is all to forgive
Improbable to convince certain ones
But, their hatred would all be outlived
For love will persist and grow through their sons
Brazen and burn and love and hurt only
Makes up all our need to improve ours’lves
As the dream we dream, none do it lonely
Because we are not like Tassy Devils
Like kookaburras, we laugh together
Hopping around the bush like wallabies
We be jellyfish, who live forever
Living past the past, taking apologies
To Australia, the land down under
To our future hope, we never sunder.

Author: Kenzh Munda Cruz
School: St Patrick’s Marist College
Category: High school writing

Author'sstatement: My piece, “Take it in, the Wild Heart from the Fires”, is made out of three connected sonnets, reinstating and reusing language from the other to reinvigorate the idea of a dream where we all are together for our future and all hate be eradicated from our society. I used sonnets to convey my own wants and opinions with love triumphing over hate in my own dream, as Shakespeare used Sonnets to convey his own feelings and opinions. I convey my message with our future as that sun rises, as we are able to obtain it, whilst those who hate, remain in shadow. I allude to certain phrases such as “beauty, rich and rare” from the national anthem and “the land down under” as terms for Australia as it's meant to signify our unity as people, all from one land. The first sonnet sets our scene, telling the reader of Australia’s past with terrible things happening for many reasons, but winning back our luck throughout the years. The second sonnet thinks and lingers on the future generations, who wouldn’t have their culture stolen but given back. The last sonnet is the dream dreamt where those who go against love won’t survive the tests of time and we all grow together with love in our hearts.

For the stolen children scream,

Ripped from their mother’s hands,

Unwritten are the stories they dream.

Subjected to racially discriminatory schemes.

Taken from their own land,

For the stolen children scream.

The gap can be blatantly seen,

Trauma continues to expand.

Unwritten are the stories they dream.

The media tells stories that are not what they seem,

But the truth can be found firsthand.

For the stolen children scream.

Racial disparities are still extreme.

How much longer can we withstand?

Unwritten are the stories they dream.

Is reconciliation enough to redeem?

Is education all we need to understand?

For the stolen children scream,

Unwritten are the stories they dream.

Author: Morgan Fugle
School: Loreto Normanhurst
Category: High school writing

Author's statement: ‘Unwritten are the Stories They Dream’ is a poem about the forgotten, lost or unheard voices and stories of First Nations peoples, especially those impacted by the Stolen Generations. Throughout the composition, I aimed to address historical and current issues relating to the Stolen Generations. Such events include dispossession from Country, removal from families and culture, Intergenerational Trauma, Closing the Gap, bias within the media, cultural education and fundamentally, reconciliation. This poem was written in Villanelle form, to emphasise through the means of repetition the core of the poem; “For the stolen children scream, unwritten are the stories they dream”. Through the repetition of these lines, I intended to communicate the importance of truth-telling, especially about past and ongoing injustices experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, in order to progress towards and achieve true reconciliation.

My Culture is dying.

I’m being told I’m a Half caste.

That I’m not a real Aboriginal.

What percentage are you they ask?

Surprised and shaken I answer with

“Excuse me. Who are you to ask such a thing?”

Are you questioning my identity of Aboriginality?

Or are you questioning my ancestral history?

My morals, my culture, my people, my stories

Or maybe you’re questioning my very own mob.

Even better my very own family

The people I identify myself as

The proud Wiradjuri nation

Let’s look at this:

Windradyne a proud Wiradjuri man

Who fought for our country, our rights, our people?

And he’s just one of many.

And well there you go and

if I’m honest with you I’m 100%

So, I’m sorry to disappoint but

I am a proud Aboriginal.

Mandaang Guwu

Author: Bella Searle (Judge's Choice)
School: Loreto Normanhurst
Category: High school writing

Author's statement: My poem ‘Voices of the Wiradjuri People’ talks about some of the experiences I have had as a young Aboriginal girl. This poem represents my connection to culture, Country and family. In a world that often seeks to question our backgrounds, this poem stands as a testament to the strength of my Aboriginal identity. In the poem, the difficulties faced by People with Aboriginal backgrounds are explored, mirroring the sensitive nature of the question "What percentage are you?" This question makes me understand and consider the depth of my relationship with my people, my history, and my culture. Throughout the poem, I also talk about one of the Ancestors, Windradyne. I embrace the story of Windradyne, a brave Wiradjuri warrior who stood up for the rights of his people, as a way to trace myself to a proud and resilient ancestry. The story of Windradyne serves as a reminder that my identity is still defined and strong and should be fought for. The poem's concluding lines read, "So, I'm sorry to disappoint but I am a proud Aboriginal, Mandaang Guwu". The Wiradjuri word "Mandaang Guwu" (which translates to "thank you") emphasizes our connection to our culture, Country, and family. So, in total "Voices of the Wiradjuri People" emphasises the power of identity, resilience, and the connection that Aboriginal people have to culture, land and family.

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