Principals and leaders encounter Kaurareg (Torres Strait Islands)


​Wearing florals for the “Coming of the Light" celebrations.

A trio of BCE Principals and leaders have immersed themselves in an in-country encounter to Kaurareg (Torres Strait Islands) to broaden their knowledge and understanding of First Nations peoples.

St Finbarr's Primary School Principal Catherine Connors, St Matthew's School Cornubia Principal Bronwyn Buckley and BCE Senior Leader Anne McKenny together spent six days on the school holidays listening to Traditional Owners and Elders' wisdom and connecting to their ways of knowing, being, doing and valuing, while also learning from colleagues from Cairns Diocese who are leading the way in connecting with communities.

An experience they all say has been invaluable and will allow them to authentically share the history and culture of First Nations Peoples with our students, staff and community.

“Through this experience, I hope to return and be more authentic in the space of supporting First Nations families and being open to and comfortable with dialogue," Ms Buckley said.

“There is lots to embrace, witness and celebrate. The experience provides opportunities to challenge your perspectives.

“I feel I will be able to help our students to feel and know more about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and support some experiential learning for them in this space."

Ms Connors said when it came to impacting student learning, the experience allowed her to understand “how people of the Kaurareg Nation and Zenadth Kes hope for their Country to be known, which allows me to share these hopes".

“Having a first-hand knowledge of the diversity of the region and some of the key challenges for these areas allows me to authentically share these with our students.

“It was a time to be immersed in place and in culture. Each Elder who spoke gifted me with a different perspective to consider. Travelling with colleagues from BCE also allowed us to discuss our context and what resonated for each of us in returning home, wanting to be agents of change."

Ms McKenny said the experience allowed her to realise just how much she didn't know and the value of learning about First Nations people from First Nations people.

“I hope to share this experience in conversations with colleagues who are working closely with families and students bringing to light the power of deep listening, learning from the experience of our families and inspiring hope for our future by understanding more about our past," she said.

“There are many opportunities for us to connect and immerse ourselves in the richness of history, the challenge of the past and the importance of culture for our current reality.  You come away with hope for the future being witness to empowerment, resilience and joy."

Brisbane Catholic Education Head of Catholic Identity Sharon O'Keeffe said to be able to extend this experience to staff in the Brisbane Archdiocese for the first time was important to her and our organisation.

“This opportunity provides a unique experience to engage in deep listening to Elders and learn about cultural practices, participate in and be witness to ecumenical rituals and the importance of maintaining culture and opportunity for personal and professional reflections," she said.

“We are each aware that Pope Francis' has called for synodality locally, nationally and globally. This privileged experience reflects synodality by working together and listening to one another but above all to the Holy Spirit. I extend our deep appreciation to the Cairns Diocese for welcoming BCE staff to join this 'in-country' experience, which we will extend to Principals and Senior Leaders again in 2024."

Encounter1.jpgFrom the air.


​Out on the water. (St Finbarr's Primary School Principal Catherine Connors, St Matthew's School Cornubia Principal Bronwyn Buckley and BCE Senior Leader Anne McKenny).

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