The ACT has named its first public school after a First Nations woman.
The Denman Prospect school was officially named this week in honour of the Indigenous Australian social activist and educator Dr Evelyn Scott.
Dr Scott was best known as a strong advocate for reconciliation and advancement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for more than 30 years, including actively campaigning for the 1967 Constitutional Referendum.
She died in 2017.
Her daughters, Charmaene and Kathrine, and her granddaughter, Kristine, were in attendance to celebrate their mother and grandmother’s legacy.
“Mum had a life-long connection to the Ngunnawal mob,” Charmaene Scott said.
“It was here in the ACT that she started her life as a campaigner for social justice, rights for indigenous people and reconciliation,” she said.
“This is exactly what our mum would have loved and it would have made her smile – women who have achieved incredible goals in their professional careers and are standing strong in positions of high authority.”
Evelyn Scott School principal Jackie Vaughan said it was an incredible honour to lead the first school in Canberra to be named after an Aboriginal woman.
“We are very privileged to have a special connection with Dr Evelyn Scott’s family,” Ms Vaughan said.
“This school is purpose-built for future-focused learning. It is a contemporary school, with open-plan architecture for 21st-century learning.
“It provides a continuum of learning from preschool through to high school, of play, inquiry and project-based learning. And it’s a connected school – connected to and co-constructed with our community, being a new school in a new suburb.”
Ms Vaughan said it was a great joy and privilege to be working with such a supportive and positive school community.
“Cultural integrity is at the heart of what we do at this school,” she said.
“My greatest wish was that this school would become a place where you all [students] felt that you belonged.
“We have achieved this sense of belonging. We’ve built a school where every individual student is at the centre of their learning, and I’m so very proud of every single one of you.”
Evelyn Scott School principal Ms Vaughan said naming a school in honour of a person was a commemorative act.
“Commemorations are significant because they provide a sense of place, identity and a kind of social glue that binds us all together,” she said.
“It’s my hope that we continue to build a rich and positive school culture that is founded on these heritage stories and is a tribute to the service and leadership of our school’s namesake, Dr Evelyn Scott.”
Minister for Education and Early Childhood Development Yvette Berry said completion of the high school was a significant milestone for ACT public education.
“Evelyn Scott was a tremendous advocate for reconciliation and the advancement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” she said.
“I’m so pleased generations of students will now grow up learning about her incredible work. It’s a big step towards reconciliation.”
Ms Berry said Dr Evelyn Scott will leave a lasting mark on the school, and her legacy will continue to strengthen and grow the community in the ACT.
“We will continue working towards educating and sharing cultural stories with this community about Evelyn Scott, but also about the Indigenous culture and language as well.”
Following the opening of the junior school in early 2021, construction of its senior site was now complete, with enrolments open for Year 7 to 10 students from next year.
It will accommodate 600 students and feature integrated learning environments for students, a canteen, sporting oval and hard-courts, double-gymnasium, library/resource centre, out-of-school hours facilities, outdoor learning and play areas and secure bicycle parking and storage.
The ACT Government had invested $70 million in the state-of-the-art facility and it will be the second zero-emissions school in Canberra.
“It’s a huge honour to name the first school in Canberra … after such an accomplished Aboriginal woman,” Ms Vaughan said.
“I say the first because I’m quite optimistic that it won’t be the last.”