Each time I visit Jarjum I am deeply embraced by warmth and thoughtfulness. This reinforces my conviction that this is so much more than just a school. Redfern Jarjum College is an extension of family because it embodies culture, abiding respect and a strong collaborative spirit.
There is a strong historical narrative here because the Jesuits began working alongside Indigenous Australians in the closing years of the 1800s. Jesuits have always sought in ourselves the spirit of evolving excellence, compassion and service. We also search for truly meaningful and abiding relationships with others through our deeds. All these aspects are reflected in our service and commitment to Indigenous Australians.
All relationships must be strengthened by common respect, vision and goals. Reconciliation, justice and hope are the very foundation of the connection between the Jesuits and the original custodians of this land who have been here for millennia.
More than just providing an education, the all-encompassing care of each individual student is at the core of the school’s mission. A culturally attuned and locally responsive approach caters to each child’s individual needs through social, physical, spiritual, academic and emotional engagement.
A few days before my most recent visit here in late April, a young alumnus came to visit Jarjum. Having completed primary school here, he’s now a student at Riverview and he came to spend the day here. At the morning gathering, he spoke to the students about the difference between high school and Jarjum, and he also talked about what he’s now learning. Not surprisingly, a lot of ex-students drop in here. They say they enjoy spending time here because it’s a place they really love and where they feel comfortable and safe.
This is not just a learning space. There is a range of wrap-around services too – an on-site speech therapist and access to a paediatrician, as well as other health services in the area. A cultural lens always guides the design and delivery of the curriculum, a context that includes continuous engagement with elders and community members. This stewardship is at all times centred on the school’s direction and purpose.
The notion of cura personalis – care for the entire individual – is central to the Jarjum ethos. Even the way the children arrive here and leave after classes is attuned to this. A bus driver and a bus supervisor pick the kids up from their front doors. If there are children who live closer to the school and prefer to walk, the teachers actually walk to their respective homes, greet them and bring them here, chatting along the way.
The children get a meal on arrival and they are clothed before they get to their respective classrooms and any personal needs are taken care of, so that they can engage in active learning in the classroom. That’s just one of the many ways in which Jarjum sets them up for success.
God’s blessings to all of you who gather here each day. May this collaborative, caring approach continue to provide a strong education and a better future for indigenous Australians.
Fr Quyen Vu SJ