The second Service Learning expedition to visit Aboriginal Communities in the desert country of Central Australia was held during the June school holidays. It was led by Science Teacher, Mr Michael Moonen and myself and included seven nights of camping under clear, starry skies and learning about the Aboriginal communities in this area.
The the tour began with two nights at a remote property, owned by one of our tour guides, John Liddle, who is a traditional Aboriginal landowner. Here the boys were able to learn about traditional bush tucker, desert survival, navigation and animal tracking, from both John and his older brother “JS”. The boys were shown how to find and gather their own bush tucker and offered the chance to ‘chow down’ on a few raw witchetty grubs. John is currently in the process of building and our boys were able to lend come muscle to help dig up trenches for water pipes, lay down concrete and construct some fencing for what will become a commercial native bush tomato garden. Our boys completed a remarkable amount of work in those two days and took great pride in their accomplishments. John was humbled and greatly appreciative of their selfless efforts.
In our travels we were also fortunate enough to visit Uluru, Kata Tjuta (The Olgas), Kings Canyon and the ancient Finke River. These normally dry, dusty places were unusually green this year, after what was a particularly wet summer. Few tourists and young locals have ever seen this breathtaking part of the world looking so alive. The photos taken were full of colour and show amazing contrasts with the rich red earth.
Most nights we shared our meals with invited local guests, who taught us about Aboriginal culture and history. One of these guests included a famous local artist and Aboriginal Elder from Mutitjulu near Uluru. He shared his knowledge of Aboriginal art, history and Dreamtime stories, told spellbindingly around a roaring campfire in traditional native language with the aid of a skilled translator. A rare privilege and experience for white Australians.
Central Australia is mad AFL territory and we used sport as a ‘bridge’ to interact with the local Aboriginal youths. Our boys ‘mixed it’ with a group of about a dozen young local boys and men from the community on the brown and dusty main field of Hermannsburg in an entertaining match that even attracted a few appreciative spectators, together with a few stray dogs who patrolled the boundaries on the field of play.
The feedback from the boys about this immersion experience has been excitingly positive. They all not only had a great time spent with their mates, but met some remarkable, inspirational characters and learnt a great deal about Aboriginal culture, history and the current challenges faced by our Indigenous people. It was a real eye-opener and a powerful learning experience that will be offered again to Year 11 boys in 2017 and we hope, for years to come.
Mr Mick Madden
Head of Service Learning