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Our Principal Reflects on 10 Years of Ngaruki Gulgul

On Friday 31st of May, we celebrated Ngaruki Gulgul's 10 years of operation! We brought together current and former students and staff, our Board Directors, family members, community partners and valued NGC supporters. It was so fitting and special to mark this milestone with many of the people who have walked this journey with us. Our principal, Andrea Cingi, gave a powerful speech at this event, where she reflected on why NGC was established and the principles that have guided our school over the past decade. We have included a transcript of her speech below.


Good afternoon everyone! Thank you all for being here to celebrate this very special milestone for NG Central School. I’m Andrea Cingi, the founding Principal.

 

As you may already know, NG stands for Ngaruki Gulgul which translates to 'Standing Strong' in Darkinjung language. It is no coincidence that we chose this name, as our small but mighty school was born on Darkinjung Country. I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge this ancient and beautiful land and pay my respects to the Darkinjung people. Their unwavering custodianship is the reason that we can be here today, on country that is nurturing our young people just as it has nurtured First Nations people for tens of thousands of years. It is also significant that the words 'Standing Strong' represent resilience, pride and self-determination. Every day, we are striving to help our young people embody these values, and nowhere are they more apparent than in the oldest continuing culture in the world. We’d planned this event before realising that it coincided with Reconciliation Week, but it’s so fitting given how fundamental NG’s connection to First Nations community, culture and country is and has always been. And needs to be - Now more than ever!

 

In the lead-up to this event, we have been looking back on the past ten years of NG. Wow, even just saying that out loud still feels somewhat surreal. Has it really been TEN years since we first opened our gates? But when I was speaking with Rick - who has been part of this journey since the beginning - we decided that it has in fact been a Decade of Disruption!

 

Now I want to take a minute to explain our thinking around this because a word like disruption can certainly conjure up different meanings. In the context of schooling, we have probably all heard it used in a negative sense. I think most teachers here today would agree that encouraging 'disruption' in the classroom doesn't exactly sound like a goal to be chasing!

 

But what if we took a look at disruption through a different lens? It was Albert Einstein, wasn't it, who said that 'Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results'. I say ‘To get a different outcome, to make a change, you need to be willing to DISRUPT the status quo.’

And that is exactly why NG first came to be. Back in 2014, we were frustrated by an educational system that was doing the same thing over and over again, but kept failing a certain cohort of young people. It wasn't that the mainstream school system was broken, but it was certainly overburdened and stretched too thin. And because of this, we saw the most vulnerable young people falling through the cracks and becoming invisible in a concrete jungle of 1000 other students. Through no fault of their own, they needed a level of support that simply wasn't available in a mainstream school. Without it, they disengaged, dropped out and in the worst cases, became stuck in a really dangerous cycle of disadvantage.

We knew then that this wasn't good enough. We knew that the young people in our community deserved better. And so we decided to disrupt business as usual and do education differently. To be a genuine alternative for young people who need a fresh start and a new perspective. Starting with just 35 Year 9 and 10 students, NG had humble beginnings but a BIG vision that has stayed constant ever since. We believe that ALL young people deserve a purposeful future.

When a young person first comes to NG, it's often because they have either forgotten - or worse, never been told - that they are capable and worthy of this kind of future. Now that might be because they have had incredibly tough or traumatising experiences, both inside and outside the classroom. It might be because they feel like they don't fit in, that they are always 'too much' or 'not enough' and that their brain doesn't learn like other people’s brains seem to. And because of this, they are on a pathway that isn't serving them or allowing them to truly flourish. So much of the work we do at NG is about disrupting that trajectory. Now when you hear that word 'disrupt', it can sound almost harsh or sudden. But really, here at NGC, disrupting those negative patterns of thinking, behaviour and self-talk is actually slow and gentle work. It's about nurturing. The Oxford Dictionary defines 'nurture' as protecting and caring for something or someone, while they are still growing. Isn't that such a beautiful thought? Our young people are still growing, finding their place in the world, learning about what they are capable of. And it is our job as a school community and as educators to do everything we can to care for and protect their precious potential, so that it can be fully realised.

 

As you would all know, only a special kind of person can take on a responsibility like that. NG wouldn't have made it to this point without our teachers and support staff, both those present now and those who have been part of the past ten years. They are the driving force behind everything we achieve here. The day-to-day work isn't glamorous. It doesn't come with fame or riches or accolades. It looks like rolling up your sleeves and getting things done, often without the resources that other schools may have at their disposal. And that takes enormous creativity, grit and collaboration. More than anything, it requires a willingness to always see the best in others, especially our young people. To see their potential and give them the time, patience and support to flourish. I feel so grateful I get to work alongside all of you. A special shout out to Lee Santi, Lee Trethowan, Rick Corderoy, Cameron Thomas, Ruby Wharton and Mel Thomas who have been with us from the school’s inception.

 

While I’m acknowledging staff, I’d like to thank Rick and the event committee (Chelsea, Miranda, Nathan and Lyndon), our groundsman Charlie, Karen, Brad and the cafe crew, Caroline for the amazing cake and everyone else for their work behind the scenes to make today's event possible, right down to the incredible artwork, videos and the music. Thanks also to Uncle Mick for the smoking ceremony, supported by the wonderful Maddison and Erica from our neighbours, NAISDA, for the celebration dance, and Year 12 NG student Chelsea who gave the Acknowledgement to Country. It was amazing.

 

I also want to acknowledge our Board of Directors. When you are disrupting the way something has always been done, you can sometimes meet resistance and red tape. That's why you need people on your side who deeply believe in your vision and will support you to bring it to life, without hesitation. Our Board continues to offer our school the wise counsel, sound governance and strategic acumen it needs to grow and thrive.

 

I would particularly like to thank our directors Marj Kong, Pat Lewis and Anne Byrne, who have been volunteering their time and expertise since the inception of the school. I'd also like to thank Maggie MacFie, Marcus Watson, Brendan Ritchens and Denise Markham, former colleagues of Youth Connections, for creating this beautiful site we are on and for their support in establishing Ngaruki Gulgul. This place has certain spiritual and healing forces about it.

 

Nelson Mandela said that the soul of a society is revealed in the way it treats its children. Well, the way that our community has embraced NG over the past ten years speaks volumes about the soul of the Central Coast. It isn't possible to do this work without a huge network of service providers, Aboriginal Elders and organisations, government departments, police and law enforcement officials, politicians, community organisations and friends. Additionally, NG wouldn't be here without countless supporters who donate much-needed funds, goods and services, and their time, energy and expertise. And of course, our community also includes families, parents and caregivers who put their trust in us every day and give us the privilege of teaching and supporting their young people. That brings me to the last group I want to acknowledge today. The young people of Ngaruki Gulgul. Looking around, I see students who are learning with us right now and students who have built incredible lives after leaving us. What you all have in common is that you will ALWAYS be part of the NG family, no matter how much time passes. Just the fact that Montana has flown from interstate to be here is a testament to the NG family bond.

 

I want to thank all of you because YOU are our true disruptors. You have been courageous enough to make a fresh start and to overcome barriers. You are the ones who have been brave enough to decide that you are worthy and capable of a bright, brilliant future. It is an honour to Stand Strong with you all. Thank you.




 

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