Closing the Gap through education – Gadens Lawyers

A group of lawyers from Gadens’ Perth and Sydney offices have recently visited the remote Aboriginal community of Lilla in the Watarrka National Park in central Australia, consolidating the firm’s ongoing support for Lilla, the surrounding communities and the Watarrka School.

With an emphasis on education as the key to helping to ‘close the gap’ between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, the group worked with the students and teachers at the Watarrka School, to record a music video for the school song which Gadens’ solicitor Michael Collins had written with the students on the firm’s first group visit in August 2012, in English and local language Luritja.

Over three days, the group from Gadens, consisting of Campbell Hudson, Roger Blow, Courtney Bowie, Lara Macalyk, Kylie Britton, James Foley, Edwina Stevens and Shelley Kaa, had the privilege of engaging with the teachers and students of the Watarrka School, to create the official video to be shared on the local Indigenous music program ‘VAMP TV’, a multimedia project that allows remote and regional communities to connect with each other.

The school song has helped to instill a sense of pride in the students in their school and their culture, to assist them in progressing through education.

The song highlights the “three great mobs” represented by the students of Lilla, Wanmarra and Ulpanyalli. The Watarrka School song video can be viewed here.

Commenting on the trip, Gadens partner Campbell Hudson said: “Gadens has been given a remarkable opportunity to make a difference to the lives of a small number of Aboriginal people, who live in a remote part of our country. We have an opportunity to show our heart and be inspired by 60,000 years of culture. The Lilla community are people who live in an environment with extreme challenges, and who inspire us with their remarkable resilience.”

Promoting the importance of education Campbell said: “Education is the key to closing the gap. This is a mutually beneficial experience. Students of the school benefit from the skills of our Gadens staff, and our staff are captivated by an experience that is life-changing in terms of their cultural awareness.”

With teachers Sonya and Raylene leading the students, the colourful classroom was brought to life with the group also listening to the students read and assisting them with an interactive learning assessment on the school’s iPad.

The students were thrilled to participate in a sports carnival during the group’s visit, with the Gadens team leading them in a cross country run, team relays and fun ball games, testing the fitness of all involved!

Solicitor Shelley Kaa shared her Indigenous Maori heritage and led the class with a lesson on Maori culture, followed by a cooking session, with the students working in groups to follow a recipe to cook traditional kiwi bread.

The visit also continues Gadens’ partnership with Reg Ramsden of Remote Education Tours, who plays a key role in connecting the three remote communities and providing generous and ongoing support to their people and to the Watarrka School. Aboriginal Elder Keith Aitken, who also supports the local communities, hosted the group from Gadens with Remote Education Tours, sharing the ancient traditions and stories of the Aboriginal culture and their sacred land.

The group from Gadens also spent time with the Elders in the communities, to learn more about the challenges they face and how they can best be supported. The group visited a local farmer’s market in neighbouring community Wanmarra, just 15kms from Lilla, and have raised funds on their return to the firm, for fertiliser for a new crop of fresh vegetables, to provide income and fresh produce for the local communities.

Gadens’ partnership with CareerTrackers plays a key role in supporting the Lilla community and the Watarrka School. Andrew Veasey of CareerTrackers joined Gadens on the trip and will continue to work with the firm to support the teachers and students of the Watarrka School, and their communities. Earlier this year Gadens hosted a winter clothing appeal, donating 11 boxes of blankets and clothes to the Lilla and surrounding communities.

Paul House with gum leaves and smoke
Paul Girrawah House

Paul Girrawah House has multiple First Nation ancestries from the South-East Canberra region, including the Ngambri-Ngurmal (Walgalu), Pajong (Gundungurra), Wallabollooa (Ngunnawal) and Erambie/Brungle (Wiradyuri) family groups.

Paul acknowledges his diverse First Nation history, he particularly identifies as a descendant of Onyong aka Jindoomang from Weereewaa (Lake George) and Henry ‘Black Harry’ Williams from Namadgi who were both multilingual, essentially Walgalu-Ngunnawal-Wiradjuri speaking warriors and Ngunnawal–Wallaballooa man William Lane aka ‘Billy the Bull’ - Murrjinille.

Paul was born at the old Canberra hospital in the centre of his ancestral country and strongly acknowledges his First Nation matriarch ancestors, in particular his mother Dr Aunty Matilda House-Williams and grandmother, Ms Pearl Simpson-Wedge.

Paul completed a Bachelor of Community Management from Macquarie University, and Graduate Certificate in Wiradjuri Language, Culture and Heritage and Management from CSU.

Paul provided the Welcome to Country for the 47th Opening of Federal Parliament in 2022. Paul is Board Director, Ngambri Local Aboriginal Land Council, Member Indigenous Reference Group, National Museum of Australia and Australian Government Voice Referendum Engagement Group.  

Paul works on country with the ANU, First Nations Portfolio as a Senior Community Engagement Officer

Acknowledgement of Country

Reconciliation Australia acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing  connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past and present. 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be aware that this website contains images or names of people who have passed away.

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