"This is something the young ones need to learn about and also for the wider community to come together. It's been us and them for too long. We've got to clear that up."- Uncle Locky Eccles
Hand-painted sorry signs have been erected at prominent city locations to raise community awareness and create conversations for National Sorry Day.
Thursday is National Sorry Day which acknowledges and raises awareness of the history and continued effect of the forced removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from their families, communities and culture.
Warrnambool West Primary School art teacher Dayle Smithwick said the student-led project saw children make the displays which include signs and Aboriginal art dot paintings using pom poms.
The six signs have been staggered around prominent central locations, including the city's roundabouts, and will be displayed for a week.
"The signs recognise the day and create awareness around National Sorry Day," Ms Smithwick said. "We've got a lot of Koorie students and they wanted to do this. They've been working on it for a while. Everyone's pretty excited about it.
"It'll help create conversations with kids but it's a really hard topic to talk about," she said. "It's such a good thing to spark a conversation about."
Acting principal Karen Holdsworth said the school was threading Aboriginal culture throughout each curriculum area and this was just one instance of its Koorie Leadership team leading by example.
"A high percentage of our students have Koorie backgrounds and they're also a part of re-educating our students, being a voice of the local Indigenous community and being a proud part of the leadership group," Ms Holdsworth said.
"They've got a role to play and they've got a voice, and not only to represent us as a school, but also their Indigenous history and to really embrace it and they do."
Gunditjmara Elder Uncle Locky Eccles said it was great to see the signs which would raise broader community awareness and that the children took ownership of the project.
He said National Sorry Day "brings back heaps of questions" and still leaves him asking 'why?'
Uncle Locky said he was raised as a "white fella" by his Aboriginal grandmother in a bid to protect him, and her other 13 children, from societal shame and scrutiny.
He was born in 1952 and was hidden in a wardrobe as a baby to avoid being taken by welfare agencies.
"Thank goodness I was," he said. "I don't know where I'd be today."
Uncle Locky didn't realise he was Aboriginal until the age of 17, and it took until the age of 42, in the early 90s, to walk into the former Gunditjmara building at Harris Street to finally "hear the truth".
He said when Uncle Rob and Uncle Banjo embraced him it finally gave him a sense of belonging as "they welcomed me into the Indigenous family".
"This is something the young ones need to learn about and also for the wider community to come together. It's been us and them for too long. We've got to clear that up."
He said broader Indigenous awareness and education now occurring in schools was making a difference, as was the ripple effect it was having.
"Uncle Rob (Lowe Senior) and I are now in schools and it's opening eyes up, even young ones. I was talking about history with students last week and they said 'I might go home and tell mum and dad'," Uncle Locky said.
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