A group of Year 12 students at Chifley College Senior Campus in Mt Druitt were left in tears after their classmates laughed at them while performing a traditional dance during a school assembly.
The Gadi Boorong group was giving a NAIDOC dance performance in front of their entire school when the music allegedly stopped, and a teacher ushered them off stage.
The eight pupils said their peers were laughing at them, and throwing racist remarks, but they are still unsure as to why their performance was cut short.
Jennifer Murray, whose daughter partook in the performance, called her immediately after the incident in tears.
“She was so emotional, and it was so disheartening to see her come home so distressed,” Murray told ABC.
“It was so inappropriate to stop the performance, especially during NAIDOC week… we love getting out there and sharing our culture but now a lot of the students never want to dance again now.”
NAIDOC Week – which stands for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee Week – runs from July 7 to 14 and celebrates the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
However, the Department of Education has explained their decision to cut the performance short, claiming there was an unintentional “technical glitch”.
“Department staff at the event did not witness the allegations you have made in your enquiry,” a spokesperson told the ABC.
“Any allegation of racism will be looked into.”
The school has since taken to Facebook to address the allegations.
“We have been made aware of an incident on Friday that has incorrectly referred to Mt Druitt campus. We would like to inform you that the petition is not about our school,” their post reads.
“We invite you to take a look below at our FB posts and you will see that we celebrated NAIDOC on Thursday June 27th. There are a number of photos depicting the wonderful day that was had, including images of our talented dancers in action.”
Former student Dolie Ufi has started a Change.org petition, urging Premier of New South Wales Gladys Berejiklian to address the issue of inequality among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
“These children deserved to be heard & respected as any other child,” Ufi writes.
“We are not asking for much we are asking for equality as anyone else in Australia.”
The petition now has close to 30,000 signatures.
One supporter who witnessed the incident shared her experience.
“I was involved in what happened at Chifley Senior & do not wish this experience upon any future indigenous students,” wrote Alisha Carroll.
Another supporter added, “We should be able to share our Aboriginal culture and identity in our community with pride and dignity without being disrespected and humiliated.”
“Always was, always will be Aboriginal land. Don’t forget it.”
You can sign Dolie Ufi’s petition here.