During the September 2012 holiday break, 20 Year 10 Melbourne High School boys connected with the rural communities of Jabiru and Gunbalanya in the Northern Territory. This was the second consecutive visit for Melbourne High School to the West Arnhem communities.
The focus this year was on stepping up the engagement and further developing the relationship between the two schools and communities. The boys were so excited at Tullamarine Airport before their flight. Heading up to the Top End to experience firsthand life in a rural community and meet with Indigenous students their own age was an adventure just thinking about it…
Most of the Melbourne boys had never been to the Top End or even met an Aboriginal person before. Reflecting on his expectations before the program, 16-year old Sam said: ‘[b]efore the program my perception of Aboriginal people was that they all lived in the wild and still speared their food. But since having experienced this program, I now have a small insight in to how amazing and skilled Aboriginal people have to be to live in two vastly different cultures and try to respect both.’
The group had an amazing mix of ethnic backgrounds including: Chinese, Malay, Vietnamese, Indian, Sri Lankan, European and Northern American, which made the program even more special as we were literally bringing the world to rural Australia.
The boys spent the first couple of days acclimatising to the warm weather and doing some field trips on country to get familiar with their new environment. They visited Jim Jim and Twin Falls, and enjoyed an activity of silence on Ubirr Rock aiming to connect to the land.
After this induction to the environment, it was time for the boys to meet the people. On Monday they were invited into the classrooms of the Jabiru campus to work with their peers. This included maths, science, sports, music and culture. The boys cooked a BBQ for the Culture First program, which was greatly appreciated and followed immediately by another game of AFL and basketball.
Over the week, the Melbourne High boys grew very close with the local Aboriginal boys and quickly realised just how much they all had in common. One 15-year old Chinese-Australian student, Roy, said ‘I just meet this guy Junior [a local Aboriginal student] and when we went to shake hands we automatically did the same hand shake, then we talked and realised we love the same music and DJ, we both love dancing, the same football team…how can a Chinese kid from Melbourne have so much in common with an Aboriginal kid from Jabiru? This is amazing…I love Junior.’
After the week in the school, the boys then visited Gunbalanya and released a 6-foot crocodile into Cahill’s Crossing. The time in Gunbalanya was amazing as they experienced the Culture First week, learning all about bush tucker, culture and the local language. The boys tasted turtle, magpie geese and buffalo, as well as learning about spear throwing and traditional cooking methods.
The program concluded with a 12km bush walk, led by a traditional Aboriginal man who is a custodian of the land we walked. It was hot, hilly and challenging for the boys, but they never gave up, remained positive and grew from the experience.
For many of the boys the highlight of the program was the reflection session we did on Darwin waterfront in preparation for our return to Melbourne. Their insights were amazing and showed that they truly understood the experience and education behind the program. Young people never cease to amaze us at Destination Dreaming and this group was no exception.
Thank you to all the parents from Melbourne High School that supported their son to be a part of this program. It was a privilege to have worked with them and you would have been very proud of them.