Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education

Catholic Schools New South Wales recognises Aboriginal people as the original inhabitants of Australia, and embraces the rich diversity of culture, language, spirituality and educational practice which exists across Australia’s many Aboriginal Nations.

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2024 Catholic Schools NSW Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Conference

The immersive days in October hosted by Armidale Catholic Schools in Tamworth, will provide a unique opportunity for educators to advance their professional knowledge and skills, improve educational outcomes, and champion reconciliation among families and communities based on their improved understanding of culture. LEARN MORE

Catholic Schools NSW’s Commitment

Catholic Schools NSW is committed to supporting the learning and life outcomes for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. Our Catholic Schools NSW Aboriginal Education Strategy 2020-2025 outlines our commitment and actions to support Catholic school communities build culturally inclusive environments for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students so that they can learn and thrive. It demonstrates our commitment to the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Strategy vision that:

“All Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people achieve their full learning potential, are empowered to shape their own futures,
and are supported to embrace their culture and identity as Australia’s First Nations peoples”.
National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Strategy (Education Council, 2015 pg2).

Together with the broader Catholic Church, Catholic Schools NSW honours and acknowledges the continuing deep spiritual relationship of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to this country and is committed to the ongoing journey of reconciliation.

Pope John Paul II, in his famous message to the Aboriginal Peoples of Australia in Alice Springs 1986, stated that the Catholic Church will be lacking in its full expression if it does not embrace the spirituality of our Aboriginal people.

“You are part of Australia and Australia is a part of you. And the Church herself in Australia will not be fully the Church that Jesus wants her to be until
you have made your contribution to her life and until that contribution has been joyfully received by others”.

St John Paull II, ‘Address to the Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders‘, (Alice Spring, Australia, 29 November 1986)

More recently, the Australian Bishops have impelled Catholics to walk alongside Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and to embrace “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander spirituality within the wider Catholic spirituality” as a means of deepening their own faith. – ACBC Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sunday 2019 Pastoral Letter.

To support our Catholic school communities in this endeavour the Catholic Schools New South Wales Aboriginal Education Reference Group has developed an Aboriginal Spirituality resource.

NSW Diocesan Catholic Schools and Traditional Owners

Catholic Schools NSW acknowledges with respect and sensitivity the ongoing multi-layered impacts of dispossession on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. We share this as one interpretation of an Aboriginal Language Map which attempts to acknowledge the richness, diversity and meta-temporal nature of the oldest culture in the world. Before relying on this map in any important matter, users should carefully evaluate the accuracy, completeness and relevance of the information for their purpose and should engage in appropriate consultation with Elders and community for advice relevant to their particular circumstances.


Diocese of Armidale

These are the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Tribal Boundaries as recorded by Tindale in 1974 and revisited by Horton in 1994. It shows the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nations that lay within the Diocesan boundary. The 10 tribal nations within our diocesan boundary are Gamilaraay/Gamilaroi, Aniawan, Dunghutti/Dainggati, Banbai, Bigambul, Kwambal, Weraway, Kam ba wal, Ngar ab al and Jukambal.


Diocese of Bathurst

There are three First Nations countries that schools, within Catholic Education Diocese of Bathurst, sit on, they are: Wiradjuri (30 schools), Gamilaraay/Gamilaroi (2 schools) and Wailwan/Wayilwan (1 school).



The Wiradjuri are the largest Aboriginal group in New South Wales. They once occupied a vast area in central New South Wales, on the plains running north and south to the west of the Blue Mountains. The area was known as “the land of the three rivers”, the Wambool later known as the Macquarie, the Kalare later known as the Lachlan and the Murrumbidgee, or Murrumbidjeri. The Murray River forms the Wiradjuri’s southern boundary and the change from woodland to open grassland marks their eastern boundary. It is estimated the territorial range of the Wiradjuri tribal lands is 127,000 km2



Wailwan/Wayilwan country runs along the southern bank of the Barwon River from Brewarrina to Walgett, and along Marra Creek and the Castlereagh, Marthaguy, and Macquarie rivers. Their southern frontier was at Quambone and in the vicinity of Coonamble. It is estimated that Wailwan/Wayilwan country covers 13,000 km2.



The Gamilaraay/Gamilaroi ‘s tribal domains encompass some 75,000 km2, from around Singleton in the Hunter Valley through to the Warrumbungle Mountains in the west and up through the present-day centres of Coonabarabran, Baradine, Narrabri, Walgett, Moree, Lightning Ridge and Mungindi in New South Wales, to Nindigully in south-west Queensland.


Diocese of Broken Bay

The traditional custodians of the country that the Diocese of Broken Bay cover are the Guringai/Guring-gai people to the East. Dharug to the West, Awabakal to the North and Darkinjung to the North West


Archdiocese of Canberra Goulburn




Country is the largest in NSW, stretching from the eastern boundary of the Great Dividing Range, and drawing a line from the present towns of Hay and Nyngan at the western boundary. Gunnedah and Albury mark the northern and southern boundaries of Wiradjuri country.



People from south-eastern NSW. Their lands encompassed what is now Goulburn, Berrima and the Southern Highlands, running down the Hawkesbury River (Wollondilly) until the vicinity of Camden.



People are the direct descendants of the original custodians of the area near present day Goulburn, Yass and Canberra.



Is the generic name for all Aboriginal tribes from the NSW South Coast, who are considered the traditional owners of the land and water from Merimbula to the southern head of the sea entrance of the Shoalhaven River, and inland to the Great Dividing Range.



Peoples traditional lands extended from Canberra in the north to the Victorian border in the south, including the area of the Monaro and Limestone Plains and the Snowy Mountains.



People occupied the lands of Kauwambal on the upper Murray River, between Mount Kosciusko and Mount Cobbera


Diocese of Lismore

The Diocese of Lismore, Traditional Nations encompasses some of the most beautiful coastline in NSW as well as estuaries, mountains, several rivers and some parts of the tablelands.



The Bundjalung Country extends from Grafton and the Clarence River in the South, West as far as Tenterfield and the Great Dividing Range, up to Warwick in the South-East Queensland, and East across to the coast around the Logan River (south of Brisbane).



The Yaegl – Yaygirr Country encompasses Yamba, Maclean, Grafton and surrounding areas of the Lower Clarence River. Yaegl Country extends to and area south of Wooli and to an area north of Iluka



Gumbaynggirr Country stretches from Yarrahapinni near Scotts Head in the south, north of Corindi Beach, inland and further north to South Grafton and west to Nymboida and Ebor. It includes Bellingen; Coffs Harbour; Dorrigo; Glenreagh; Nambucca Heads; Eungai; Nymboida River; Red Rock/Corindi; One Tree Point; South Grafton; Urunga; Woolgoolga, Bowraville and Macksville.



The river ways are very significant to the Dunghutti/Dainggati Nation, connecting the communities from Walcha, Bellbrook, Kempsey, South West Rocks and surrounding areas.



Extended from surrounding areas of the Hastings River, westward to the Great Dividing Range, south of Kempsey to Foster


Diocese of Maitland Newcastle

Biripi – Taree
Worimi – Nelson Bay, Raymond Terrace and Bulahdelah
Awabakal – Newcastle, Swansea
Darkinjung –
Wonnarua – Muswellbrook and Singleton
Gamilaraay/Gamilaroi – Scone, Murrurundi, Merriwa
Wiradjuri – Merriwa


Diocese of Parramatta

The Darug/Dharug, Dharawal/Tharawal and Gundungurra tribes
The Darug/Dharug language on the western side of the Georges River, as well as in the area west of Sydney from the Hawkesbury River to Appin and Picton and as far west as the Blue Mountains. Gundungurra is said to be the language of the ‘mountain’ people from the Blue Mountains to the Nattai and Burragorang Valleys and as far south as Goulburn. The Gundungurra (also spelled Gandangara) language group stretches to the south-west of Sydney. Their country includes the catchments of the Wollondilly and Cox Rivers and some adjacent areas west of the Great Dividing Range. Mulgoa Valley marks an important boundary between the Darug/Dharug from the plains and Gundungurra from the mountains. Separated by the valley we also have schools that sit on Dharawal/Tharawal Land around the Kemps Creek and Luddenham areas.
The traditional land of the Darug/Dharug Aboriginal people stretches roughly from the coast, north to Wisemans Ferry, west into the Blue Mountains to Hartley, south along both sides of the Nepean River to Appin, and then east approximately along the Georges River to Botany Bay.


Archdiocese of Sydney

Eora – Eastern suburbs & inner west
Cadigal – Inner West & South Sydney
Darug/Dharug – Liverpool area
Dharawal/Tharawal – Sutherland Shire
Guringai/Guring-gai – Nth Sydney


Diocese of Wagga Wagga

The Diocese of Wagga Wagga is on the lands of the Wiradjuri and Yorta Yorta Nations. Schools located on Yorta Yorta land include Tocumwal, Finley, Jerilderie and Berrigan.


Diocese of Wilcannia Forbes

Balranald – Madi Madi/Maddi Maddi
Bourke – Ngemba, Wonkamurra, Muruwari, Bardagee, Barkindji/Paakindji, Burubinya/Barranbinya, Kunja
Brewarrina – Ngemba
Broken Hill – Wilyakali, Barkindji/Paakindji
Cobar – Ngiyampaa, Wongaibon
Condobolin, Forbes, Hillston, Narromine, Parkes, Peak Hill, Trangie, Trundle – Wiradjuri
Deniliquin – Wemba Wemba/WambaWamba, Baraba Baraba/Perrepa Perrepa
Hay – Nari Nari
Nyngan – Ngiyampaa, Wongaibon
Warren – Ngiyampaa, Wailwan/Wayilwan
Wilcannia- Barkindji/Paakindji


Diocese of Wollongong

The traditional custodians are the Dharawal/Tharawal, Gundungurra and Yuin nations upon whose land our Catholic schools are built.