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Byron Shire
September 26, 2023

Reconciliation and connection for brekky at Ballina Public School

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L-L: Carol Empson, Balllina Public School Co-Captain Ruby and Assistant Principal Angela Wraight
PIC: Mia Armitage

National Reconciliation Week may be over but community connection efforts are to continue indefinitely at Ballina Public School, with Friday morning family breakfast a new weekly triumph.

School Co-Captain Ruby* had not long finished her brekky roll and OJ and was soon to lead the school assembly when she introduced The Echo to her great-grandmother, Carol Empson, and close family friend, Robyn*, at the school family Friday breakfast last week.

The self-identifying twelve-year-old (Ruby turns twelve in a couple of months) First Nations student said the gathering was ‘a lot of excitement’ for families and other people coming.

Her special guests agreed, saying they intended to come as often as they could, with Robyn also staying on to volunteer in the school canteen for lunch.

Reconciliation Action Plan key to community reconnection after Covid lock-outs and flooding

Ballina Public School Assistant Principal Angela Wraight said the Friday morning family breakfasts were a way for the school to show the community it was ‘really serious’ about welcoming families back onto the campus after a prolonged period of disconnection owing to COVID 19 and then flooding.

‘We had to lock people out and we weren’t allowed to have families come in, which is a really unnatural thing for us to do here, because we’re so centred on families and community being united together with the school,’ Ms Wraight said.

‘To reintroduce them to the school was a bit of a trick: how do we get families back in again, everybody’s so used to us not wanting them here?’ she said.

The assistant principal, who Ruby said had been supporting her involvement in a video production mentorship program with One Vision Productions, said the projects were part of the school’s ongoing Reconciliation Action Plan.

‘We want our families at their school, we want to have our families involved, we want to have exactly what’s happening here on Friday mornings,’ she said.

‘We don’t want to want to do one-off events that are, you know, just a little flash in the pan.’

All welcome for breakfast at Ballina Public School

Ms Wraight said some of the volunteers coming to the breakfasts no longer had children attending the school but were still ‘looking for that connection’.

‘I think that’s what COVID taught us, that we need that connection,’ Ms Wraight said.

‘Our first morning we said “OK, we might get twenty families, that would be amazing”, she said.

‘I think we ended up with almost 80 families on our first morning, so we were blown away.

‘But it just shows that people are as desperate to connect with us as we are to connect with them.

‘So, if we can do breakfast on a Friday morning and mums have got one less thing on their plate, let’s do it.’

*Some names withheld from publication on request

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