Aboriginal Ministry South Australia

The Lutheran Church has been a significant part of the Aboriginal community through much of Port Lincoln’s history. In Port Lincoln, the population of Aboriginal people is about five percent of the population. Most people have connections back to Ceduna, Koonibba or Yalata. After the mission at Koonibba wound down its operations in the 1950s, and no longer provided employment for people, families spread over Eyre Peninsula, with many settling in Port Lincoln. A numerically smaller number of Barngarla people trace their heritage to the land of Kallinyalla/Port Lincoln and have their own history with the Lutheran church connected with early missionary and educator, Clamor Schurmann. Because of this history, most Aboriginal people in Port Lincoln identify as Lutheran, or have a feeling of connection to the Lutheran Church.

Shanaya Cook preparing for NAIDOC week

In recent years, a Lutheran College has been established: “Navigator College”. The college has embraced the opportunity to connect with Aboriginal people in various ways. Positive connections between the college and the Barngarla people have been fostered, with Barngarla leaders and Principal Stephen Jude having encouraging relationships. The school features community art projects in partnership with Susie Betts, a renowned Aboriginal artist, and cultural awareness programs for students. Connections with local Barngarla artists are also important and it is hoped there will be many art works from the community in the College.

Navigator College supports Aboriginal students in a variety of ways. Keelah Sumner provides support for indigenous students as well as programs around significant events like NAIDOC Week and Reconciliation Week.

There are about 30 Aboriginal students at the College. Six of those students are there on scholarships from The Smith Family through the “Indigenous Youth Leadership Program”. This scholarship supports families by paying for school fees, uniforms, and other educational needs from Year 7 up to Year 12. A recipient of the scholarship, Shauna Warrior says, “This scholarship has given stability and comfort knowing that I am able to continue my education at Navigator College”.

Shauna Warrior helping a student with hand print

It is encouraging to see our Aboriginal students’ efforts recognised through awards at the end of year events. Two students have achieved the “Journey Award” for both 2019 and 2020. This award is for students who have shown improvement in their college journey over time, and have embraced the opportunities of college life in sport, the arts, community projects, camps etc.

Shauna Warrior won the Journey Award in 2019. She reflects on what Navigator College means to her. “I personally enjoy Navigator College because I am provided with opportunities that allow me to connect with my culture and to participate in a lot of programs that involve sport.” Shauna loves being part of the SAASTA (South Australian Aboriginal Secondary Training Academy) program run cooperatively with Port Lincoln High School.

Shanaya Cook, the recipient of the 2020 Journey Award says, “I love being at Navigator College because most of the staff are supportive … Being part of the planning and organisation of Reconciliation, NAIDOC week and the Indigenous Literacy day makes me feel proud of my culture and being able to share it with non-indigenous students.”

Aboriginal Education Worker, Keelah Sumner is excited about opportunities given to the students she works with at Navigator. She is looking forward to engaging with the LCA’s Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) next term, and will be gathering a committee of staff, parents, students, and other interested people to work together on that project.

It’s exciting for us as church to be part of a positive educational and life journey for our Indigenous students. Family, school, community, and church all play a role in contributing positively to their development and growth. Seeing them grow in confidence and celebrating positive outcomes in their lives is a real joy.

About the Author

Pastor Rob Schubert

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