In early September, our Year 10 cohort travelled to North-East Arnhem Land for a week of complete immersion on Country with the Yolŋu community. Facilitated by Culture College, this was an extraordinary week for our students and the accompanying staff; it will become an inaugural immersion for Year 10.
Here, Year 10 student Freya reflects on a life-changing week.
‘Year 10 had the amazing opportunity to embark on an adventure to North-East Arnhem Land to participate in the Midawarr Immersion. We learnt so much; it was an unforgettable experience. The Culture College staff and the Yolŋu people were so welcoming, creating a safe space for us to learn and grow in. It was a wonderful way to gain new perspectives on different issues and aspects of life while also providing a break from the stresses of everyday life.
On our first day at the Gulkula campsite, the Yolŋu people performed a deeply sincere and moving Welcome to Country and Smoking Ceremony for us, which was a great way to start the week off. Throughout the trip we participated in so many amazing activities such as weaving, where we learnt from the women about the process for harvesting and making the threads from Pandanus leaves (Gunga) while we made our own woven creations. We also painted and made jewellery. We listened to the women explain how they collect the shells from the beach and how they prepare them for jewellery.
Alongside doing all the activities we also had the privilege of learning about the Yolŋu language (Matha), where we also learnt Yolŋu sign language, and law (Rom) from the Indigenous elders, where they talked about the levels of knowledge that people can achieve in Yolŋu culture. We also learnt about Kinship (Gurrutu) and the ways in which everyone is connected to each other and to the land around them. This was a complicated concept for many of us to understand originally but it was really fascinating to learn about. We were also given our skin names, which connect us forever with the Yolŋu people. My skin name (Malk) was Ngarritjan. Another learning experience was when we learnt all about the different bush food and medicines and the ways that Yolŋu people are able to utilise the natural world to benefit them, while maintaining a balanced ecosystem.
On top of all the incredible experiences at the campsite, we were also lucky enough to participate in excursions. On the second night, we went to East Woody (Gulkula) to watch the sunset and learn about the different creation stories that the Yolŋu people have about the area. We also went to the Buku Art Centre in town, where we got to admire the artworks by local Indigenous people. We also were able to go to Makassans Beach, which was my favourite part of the trip, where we walked along the shore while we learnt about the history of the Yolŋu people’s trade with the Indonesians prior to European settlement. The beach was scenic and learning about an element of Australian history that none of us knew anything about was fascinating.
We also had the opportunity to watch a documentary made by and about the Yolŋu people called Luku Ngarra. It was a beautiful film, and the message was extremely powerful, as it discussed issues that Indigenous people have faced and continue to face in Australia.
The whole trip was a wonderful experience and really allowed us to connect more closely to ourselves, our peers and to Country as we explored the links to the land and to people. It also gave many of us one of our first opportunities to interact closely with the Indigenous people of this Country and to learn about how we as the next generation of leaders can create change. It was hugely beneficial. We’re sure all the younger Year groups will have the best time when they are able to participate in this experience in later years.’
Watch our video of Year 10’s immersion On Country with the Yolŋu community…