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Diocese of Toowoomba Catholic Schools

Toowoomba to host First Nations Education Conference in 2025

The QCEC First Nations Education Conference is held every two years in one of the five Queensland dioceses. This conference provides staff of Queensland Catholic schools with a platform to showcase the achievements of their work in supporting successful outcomes for First Nations students and school communities. It also engages educators in professional learning in cultural competency and introduces them to culturally appropriate and innovative teaching and learning practices for First Nation’s students.

In 2025 Toowoomba Catholic Schools (TCS) will host this significant conference. The conference cross has become a traditional symbol passed onto the conference's host diocese and it was symbolically handed over to Dr Pat Coughlan by Mayrah Dreise from Brisbane Catholic Education. It has now taken pride of place in the reception area of the Toowoomba Catholic Schools Office. 

The story of the conference cross

Aunty Rosemary Bell, a Quandamooka woman and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Coordinator at the time for Brisbane Diocese, created the conference cross. Aunty Rosemary organised the crafting of the cross using wood from the Ngutana-Lui Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Studies Centre in Brisbane.

With other Quandamooka people, shells were collected from the shore of Stradbroke Island to place on one side of the cross. The conference cross is a powerful symbol and reflects the journal of caring and sharing the weight of living life. The shells on the seashore, some whole, others broken, and many crushed by the footsteps of people, are a reminder of living life, and that the cross is heavier for many.

Michelle Na-Kui (Pink Water Lily) Ballesteros, who is a descendant of the Darumbal Clan from Central Rockhampton, was commissioned by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander committee to create an artwork that symbolises the coming together of the five dioceses. This appears on the other side of the cross.

The image symbolises the core that brings everything together - a spirituality that lies within oneself and that of the cross. The five large circles represent the coming together of the dioceses in Queensland. The small dots indicate the journal and sharing, with all things interacting on a continuous exchange around the Catholic ethos and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Learning Cycle (image of the conference cross used with permission).

TCS looks forward to hosting the conference next year and showcasing the wonderful work of the First Nations students and the teachers who shine in this area of teaching and learning.