HMAS Albatross usually marks National Reconciliation Week by hosting and participating in a range of community events throughout the Shoalhaven, but distancing requirements meant personnel had to consider how to embrace the 2020 theme ‘In This Together’ while physically being apart.
“2020 is a very important year,” Albatross’ Community Engagement Officer, Chief Petty Officer Linda Eddington, said.
“It’s the twentieth anniversary of the Reconciliation Walks of 2000, when people came together to walk on bridges and roads across the nation and show their support for a more reconciled Australia.
“So we looked for ways we could abide by the restrictions but still build bridges and connections with the wider community.
“In the end, we didn’t need to look far. Just down the road from HMAS Albatross is Boori Preschool which caters for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
“So, we decided to have a book drive for Boori and asked personnel to bring in books suitable for 3 to 6 year olds,” she said.
Boori has a strong cultural focus, supporting children to deepen their connection with their culture and strengthen their sense of belonging.
Twenty-eight children attend the preschool and the original target was to collect at least one book per child.
“We were very pleased with the response,” Chief Petty Officer Eddington said.
“My office became a bit of a library as people dropped their books off for delivery.
“We received classics and ever-popular titles such as Dr Seuss and Hairy Maclary, but we also received some amazing books from contemporary Indigenous authors and illustrators.
“Personnel loved reconnecting with some of their childhood favourites, but they also really enjoyed discovering authors they’d never encountered before such as Ambelin Kwaymullina.
“Her book The Lost Girl is such a beautiful book, and she’s dedicated it to all the Aboriginal girls, stating ”may you walk tall, stay strong and always be able to find your way home”,” she said.
Petty Officer Eddington said her own favourite books were Welcome to Country by Aunty Joy Murphy, which has some absolutely stunning illustrations by Lisa Kennedy, and “Tell ‘Em”, which was written by Katrina Germein and Rosemary Sullivan with the children of Manyallaluk School.
Manyallaluk is in the Eva Valley, in the NT, Darwin and describes itself as “a small school with a big heart”.
“So, while Albatross wanted to connect with the children at Boori, we also hope the students find connections through the books with other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and the wider world,” Petty Officer Eddington said.