Indigenous Ambassador James Egan talks about
Caulfield Grammar’s journey towards reconciliation
James Egan is Chair of Caulfield Grammar School‘s Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) working group, Indigenous Ambassador and Elder. A Grammarian with two Grammarian sons, James was also Head Coach of Cricket at Caulfield Grammar for 12 years. Outside of the School, he also works for Victoria Police.
Here, James talks about Caulfield Grammar’s journey towards reconciliation.
At Caulfield Grammar, we are committed to the reconciliation process. Reconciliation Australia’s Narragunnawali: Reconciliation in Education program supports Australian schools and early learning services to develop environments that foster a high level of knowledge and pride in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, cultures and contributions. Having a RAP in place at the School makes it a formal agreement and sets out a number of commitments to achieve over a set period.
As Chair of the RAP working group, I’ve been proud to work with the committee that has looked at the process from its infancy; from preparing the first RAP to choosing actions that involve different areas of the School and then assessing the School’s ability to complete those actions. My role helps bring the plan together, have it signed off by Reconciliation Australia, and promote its significance in the wider School community. The process from there is to be a part of the program that encourages staff and students to get on board and achieve the initiatives we’ve set out for each period of the plan. Our first RAP spans 2022–23, but we will review and resubmit each year as part of a continuous and ongoing journey.
Caulfield Grammar School is already achieving a lot of the things in the RAP. In addition to classroom teachings right across the School, a group of staff called the ‘CGSMob’ meet regularly to plan and assist in activities and events (e.g. Reconciliation Week). YJ Campus has been incorporating Indigenous education and learning programs for more than 20 years, and the move into the NT – all form part of the actions that contribute to the RAP.
While the School is already doing a lot, there is more that can be done. It’s really a process of education. I challenge staff to educate themselves as best they can so that they become the champions of this cause. And I encourage all staff to do their own planning for how they think they can contribute to achieving the goals of the RAP. The more educated teaching staff are, the more it will flow to the students.
In my eyes, true reconciliation and true change will come through the next generations and through our kids.
The School comfortably acknowledges it is a very influential body with significant influence in communities. By offering opportunities to Indigenous students, this then expands into their families, into wider families and then into their communities. That’s the School’s footprint, spreading further and further. With the School’s Indigenous Scholarship program, Caulfield Grammar is offering fantastic opportunities. We have eight students now that have graduated and seven more currently in the Scholarship program.
The School doesn’t do it to be patted on the back. It’s about the students and their extended families – parents and grandparents – all being influenced. The School is educating the whole community. And that’s important.
The ‘truth journey’ is part of this education and is about unlocking the doors that history has been hidden behind, so that the wider community is much better educated about the true history of this country. Once that acknowledgement occurs, we can start to move forward as a joint community.
But don’t just talk about it; actually walk the journey. There are so many things the School is already involved in and can extend further to become more immersed in. Events across metropolitan Melbourne through NAIDOC week, for example. Every time there is a significant event in our community, it’s an opportunity for individuals to immerse themselves in that space just a little bit more. And each time you do, you’ll learn a little bit more.
Step into the space knowing you’ll meet like-minded people in my community who want to educate the world about our culture, that’s been hidden away for so long and has been heavily impacted by the colonisation process.
Be confident to want to know more – in your ability to approach people and start conversations. You might be corrected but you’ll never be criticised, because you’re making the effort to learn more. It will get to the point where you’re no longer learning, you’re teaching. When that happens, everything we’d hope to achieve by the RAP will actually self-generate through all of the good work being done.
Certainly in the last decade there has been considerable change within the wider community from where it was, but there still needs to be change going forward. Through education and through the makers of future change – our kids – I think the relationship will continue to get stronger. What I would like to see in my lifetime is a country that celebrates the oldest living culture in the world – and that culture exists within the Australian community.
I’m looking forward to the day we get every person in this country speaking proudly of our whole history – not just 230 years’ worth – recognising and celebrating it. With what I’ve seen celebrated across the world, we have so much more worth celebrating.
But I would encourage everyone to take that first step. And once you’ve taken that step, keep walking forward.