Sr Monica Cavanagh (far left) with members of the Sisters of Saint Joseph Reconciliation Action Plan Working Group and artist Richard Campbell.
Redfern Jarjum College student dancers and teacher Andrea Adidi.

The Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart are proud to announce the launch of their Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) 2023 – 2025. The launch of the RAP took place on 16 June 2023 at Mary MacKillop Place in North Sydney and coincided with the Feast of the Sacred Heart. Attending the launch included representatives from Reconciliation Australia, special guests, Sisters, staff, student dancers from Redfern Jarjum College and supporters of the Sisters of Saint Joseph.

Although the Sisters of Saint Joseph have a long history of being in relationship with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, the Congregation is now seeking to formalise its ongoing commitment to reconciliation.

The Sisters of Saint Joseph Innovate RAP 2023 – 2025 Cover.

Sr Monica Cavanagh, Congregational Leader, says the launch of the Innovate RAP is a significant step for the Congregation.

“Inspired by the Uluru Statement from the Heart, the Sisters in collaboration with our Indigenous brothers and sisters, have chosen this pathway to deepen our commitment to walk alongside First Nation peoples as they seek voice, treaty and truth-telling,” says Sr Monica.

“Although this might be our first RAP 2023 – 2025, it is driven by a vision for a reconciled Australia accepting the legacy of its past, and where First Nations peoples can resume their rightful place. The RAP will explore and act on new initiatives through relationships, employment opportunities and supply networks. Our Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan takes us to a place of truth and greater integrity as a Congregation.”

In celebration of the launch, a special water blessing was conducted by Elders from Baabayn Aboriginal Corporation in Western Sydney with water taken from an ancient well on the Mary MacKillop Place site. Students from Redfern Jarjum College entertained guests with their First Nations dancing.

Savannha Roberts, Senior RAP Officer, Success Network from Reconciliation Australia was keynote speaker and spoke of the opportunity and invitation for the Sisters of Saint Joseph to expand their understanding of their core strengths and deepen their relationships with community, staff and stakeholders.

The RAP launch was accompanied by the unveiling of a new artwork for the Sisters of Saint Joseph produced by Gumbayngirr/Dhungatti man and respected artist, Richard Campbell.

“The soul of what matters now is respectful listening and truth-telling,” concluded Sr Monica. “We will grow as a Congregation and heal as a Nation as we listen with courage and empathy, to take significant steps to provide opportunities for greater recognition, reconciliation, and equity.”

The Sisters of Saint Joseph Innovate RAP is available to view online here.

About the Painting and Artist

My art is necessary for my survival: physically, mentally and spiritually, but it also feeds my soul.

The Sisters of Saint Joseph engaged celebrated Gumbaynggirr/Dhungatti artist, Richard Campbell, to create a painting in recognition of the Congregation’s Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan.

A survivor of the Stolen Generations, Richard was born in Bowraville in 1958. His mother was a Gumbaynggirr woman and his father was a member of the Dunghutti tribe.

When commissioned to create the art for the Sisters of Saint Joseph Innovate RAP, Uncle Richard described the Rainbow Serpent meandering across time, space, and through the ancient lands, it will tell a story that is full of memories. For in this symbol lay all the answers and a path towards reconciling with Australia’s First Peoples.

The Rainbow Serpent represents transformation, the shedding of the ‘old skin’ to the present new understandings and responses contained in the Innovate RAP. The Sisters of Saint Joseph, through their Innovate RAP, are entering into the next phase of their intention ‘to learn’ and to make cultural changes within all Josephite communities and organisations, changes that respond to the profound injustices perpetrated against First Nations Peoples.

“I feel that the task/project before me,” says Richard, “and indeed the Sisters, is best encapsulated by one of the many beautiful quotes that represent Saint Mary of the Cross MacKillop, which I love; “Never see a need without doing something about it.”