More than one hundred Aboriginal Teaching Assistants (ATAs) from CEWA schools across the State gathered at the Catholic Education Centre to begin Term Four with the 2019 ATA Conference.
The Conference, sharing the Plenary Council theme ‘Listen to what the Spirit is saying’, brought the ATAs together on Noongar Country along with Principals, Aboriginal Perspectives Key Teachers and CEWA system leaders for three days of keynote presentations, workshops, a unique ‘market day’, and a celebration of the Eucharist with Bishop Emeritus Justin Bianchini in the Chapel of St Michael the Archangel.
Among the highlights of the Conference programs were keynotes by Dr Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr (AO), an Aboriginal Elder from Nauiyu (Northern Territory) renowned for her work in Catholic education and as an artist, advocate, writer and public speaker, as well as Noongar Elder, cultural educator and story-teller Dr Noel Nannup.
Dr Ungunmerr joined the Conference to take part in multiple sessions during the day focussed on Catholic identity and Aboriginal spirituality, speaking about dadirri, which is a word, concept and spiritual practice of the Aboriginal peoples of the Nauiyu/Daly River region.
CEWA Executive Director, Dr Debra Sayce, said the Conference was an opportunity to invest in the professional development, faith formation and renewal of a key group of educators.
“Our Catholic education system spans WA with 162 schools and colleges; at many of these schools, from the Perth metropolitan area to regional and remote communities, ATAs do important work facilitating learning, as well as supporting relationships between their school and Aboriginal families,” Dr Sayce said.
“This Conference provided ATAs with unique opportunities to add to their knowledge and strengthen their practice as educators, but it was also a great opportunity for colleagues from different schools and regions to connect,” she said.
Dr Sayce was a keynote speaker at the Conference, talking about the importance of ATAs to the CEWA system and its Transforming Lives:Strategy 2025.
The Conference also included workshop sessions on Aboriginal perspectives in curriculum areas by CEWA consultants, a session unpacking Pope Francis’ Gaudete et Exsultate with Caritas Australia Justice Educator Dr Nathan Leber.