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From the very early years, when our founders' group was developing into the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry, there were religious women and men who provided support for the Aboriginal leaders. Sr Andrea Watt RSM, Sr Agnes Murphy RSM, Sr Joan Hamilton RSJ, Br Jim Cummins CK and Fr Tom Nicholas SJ recognised that our group needed to be self determining. Their role was to be facilitators and co-workers.

Danny Kelly recalls that Joan the Bone '(Sr Joan Hamilton)' always encouraged us Aboriginal people to do things; she'd say, 'you've got to do this'. She didn't step in. She stepped back and pushed us forward.'

In the early days of the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry the Catholic Education Office, Melbourne, invited us to work in partnership with their staff in professional development activities for their personnel. We act as consultants and provide input to professional development activities and curriculum development at both the planning and delivery stages. Many of the schools who have participated in initial Catholic Education Office in-service activities continue to develop their understandings through specific programs or projects in conjunction with the Ministry.

This partnership aims at improving the participation rates of Koorie students in Catholic schools. It also aims to ensure that Catholic schools are aware of and open to the special contribution Koorie people can make to Catholic Education.

In 1991, the Victorian campuses of Australian Catholic University began a process aimed at re-establishing educational links with Aboriginal communities. There had been an active program at Christ Campus in the late 1970's and 1980's but this had lapsed.

The Ministry responded positively to the University's requests for guidance and support in the education of its staff. The partnership began with a meeting which explored issues of concern to Koorie peoples and the University's commitment to Aboriginal education. Members of the Ministry became foundation members of the University's Koorie Education Consultative Group, with Vicki Walker also being appointed to the University's National Aboriginal Committee.

In the early 1990's Fr Geoff Baron, Co-ordinator of the Northcote Deanery approached the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry about involvement with the deanery. A deanery is like a family of parishes in the Archdiocese, and the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry is perceived as a member of the family. The then Archbishop of Melbourne, Sir Frank Little, had just formally established the deaneries 'to foster more effective pastoral care by means of common action'.

Right from the start the Ministry has participated in deanery activities, and has been involved in the process of discovering how each of the seven parishes and the Ministry can more effectively minister to each other and to the wider community.

Dr Kevin Burke of Australian Catholic University speaks for many members of the support groups and partners of the Ministry when he says

''Aboriginal Catholic Ministry stands as a gatekeeper between two cultures, facilitating access and bringing together pilgrims following different paths.''
''In the spirit of partnership and because it is a strongly held value of personnel in both the Catholic Education Office and the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry, we undertake joint projects where ever possible. The collaboration that is evident between our organisations has been seen as a model of reconciliation for others involved in Catholic Education.''

Kathy Johnston, Catholic Education Office, Melbourne

''Hearing the stories of Koorie people who were forcibly removed from home and family was a moving and humbling experience: moving because of the personal hurt and cruel separation experienced by so many, and humbling because those who were ill-treated have retained their personal dignity and integrity.''

Dr Kevin Burke, Australian Catholic University

''Two memorable occasions for members of the Northcote Deanery were the Deanery Sunday Masses celebrated with Smoking Ceremony and music at the Aborigines Advancement League in Thornbury, followed by lunch.''

Fr Geoff Baron, Co-ordinator, Northcote Deanery