The Stronger Smarter Institute, led by Dr Chris Sarra, became the first organisation to take advantage of the new Ration Shed Museum’s conference facilities at the Cherbourg Historical Precinct in the South East Queensland community in October.
A ward in the historic Boys’ Dormitory has been opened into a small conference area, presentations by community Elders and video projections have been held in the Ration Shed itself, while many breakaway sessions were held in the gardens of the Precinct. The Wakka Wakka Juniors dancers from the Cherbourg State School performed for participants in the corroboree area.
The Institutes’ Stronger Smarter Leadership Program has 29 participating principals and school leaders from all over the country attending. There have been strong emotions among them to have the program located on an Indigenous community, particularly in Cherbourg where the Strong and Smart story had its beginnings.
Peta Hegarty, the co-ordinator of the Knowledge House at the Loganlea State High School was born and brought up in Cherbourg – so it is not surprising that she is deeply moved to be doing the Program in Cherbourg.
But even participants who have travelled a long way for the Program feel there is something special in Cherbourg. Jade Kennedy, originally from Perth in WA, now from Bairnsdale Secondary College in Gippsland, Victoria says: “I feel safe here, somehow. It’s a place that allows me to reflect on where I come from, my own culture”.
Dr Sarra said: “I am just blown away by what has been achieved here at the Ration Shed. Cherbourg is, of course, a special place for me and for the Stronger Smarter Institute, but I reckon anyone coming here will be enriched and moved by the place. And to have a conference here – in the presence of Cherbourg Elders, among all the historical photos and the artworks – is just great.”