As all are aware, many cultures bind together a sense of cultural identity across the generations. The experiences of a rite of passage might change from time to time, but for them to be effective there needs to be a recognisable similarity or pattern that helps us identify with a changing time in our lives.
Traditional indigenous cultures practice ceremonies at special times and during special seasons. In some parts of Australia, boys and girls experience ceremony separately. They are taken aside and taught new stories and dances, which mark in their minds as well as in their bodies that they have reached a new time of life. with this knowledge comes new responsibilities in the community.
It is inspiring to think that the rite of passage in traditional indigenous cultures involves knowledge as well as actions and ceremonies. One generation shares the deep stories of their existence with the younger generation, educating them their responsibilities within community and on Country.
In some parts of Australia, these powerful social truths are celebrated in ritual story telling, that recount the songs that connect one generation with another and one moiety group with another. The story of one group differs from another but carries a common thread that will link people together into strong bonds of belonging.
In this penultimate week of the academic year, we are witnessing contemporary versions of this rite of passage. They are also expressed in a Barker Way.
The adverse fire conditions resulted in the cancellation of the annual Year 9 Camp at Myall Lakes but the annual Year 9 Play was a brilliant expose of their skills and talented passions and was a triumph once more. The Year 10 Camp and SEAL Week experience has been able to function normally. I've heard some wonderful stories of adventure, fun, service and learning. Today I received a phone call from a grateful resident in Jindabyne who was eager to share her enthusiastic thanks for the efforts of our Year 10s these past two weeks who helped her with a wide range of domestic tasks.
The Junior School has enjoyed their end of year sports day and other events that mark their connection to each other and to their class group. One such moment admirably meets the criteria of a “rite of passage”.
The Year 6 Graduation is one of the highlights of the year and celebrates the achievements of every student. What makes the Barker Year 6 Graduation a special moment is the customary ritual at the end of the ceremony. The entire Junior School, from Pre K to Year 5 joins their teachers, support staff and the parents and grandparents of Year 6 to form a guard of honour that stretches from the Junior School Flag Pole along Chapel Drive to the top of the hill and into the Chapel itself for their final worship service. Each Year 6 student is cheered on their way as their journey takes them up the Hill and into the future. With shining faces of delight and fulfilment, their brisk walk almost breaks into a run as they walk together into the Middle Years.
Rites of Passage require ritual, but these rituals convey little if they are immersed in the meaning invested by a shared community. The rejoicing of others was as important to the Year 6s as their own accomplishments - well, almost. The love of parents and grandparents, the honour of their peers, the repeating actions of generations who have made the same walk, the prayerful thanksgiving for the efforts made to support their growth, the passing of symbols from one generation of students to the next, the praise of teachers, the awarding of a certificate, the singing of familiar songs in Chapel and the surge up the Hill into the future - all of these things and many more are our rites of passage.
Another is our annual Celebration. Please come along next week and witness the countless achievements of our Barker students. I would love the whole community to join us.