Red Earth reflections

A group of Year 9 students recently embarked on the IGS Red Earth Indigenous Immersion Expedition to central NSW and the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) lands.

“This year was the fifth time that IGS has been to the Yunyarinji community, otherwise known as Kenmore Park,” IGS Red Earth Expedition Leader and Language Educator Lucy Sensei said.

“We were the first school to visit this community through Red Earth in 2014 and we have become firm friends ever since.

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“While we visit many incredible natural icons such as Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon, without a doubt the most amazing part of this trip is the chance to stay with the Kenmore mob on their land.”

Unlike the famous tourist attractions in the area, individuals cannot visit the APY lands and their communities without being invited and receiving a permit to do so, which Lucy Sensei explained highlights “the significance of this trip and the incredible first-hand opportunity we have to not only give back through the community project, but to take part in some amazing cultural activities”.

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The community is in the northern part of South Australia, occupied by the Anangu people for many thousands of years and formally recognised in the APY Land Rights Act in 1981.

“The IGS kids were open minded, adapted to some very different ways of life and took every experience as it came with great enthusiasm,” Lucy said.

“I was very proud of all of them and cannot praise them enough.

“Lois, one of the Elders, said to me that she loves the IGS mob because we always try everything and give it a go.”

The students immersed themselves in the local culture and lifestyle, shared memorable experiences and contributed to the community.

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“Our trip didn’t start when we got on the plane. It started at the beginning of Term 2 when we began fundraising every week to reach our goal of $2,000 to contribute to our project work in the community,” Isabel Whitaker said.

“We expected our trip to be mainly focused on giving back to the community, but in actual fact the openness and generosity of the Anangu people and immersing ourselves in these cultural experiences meant that we took away a lot more than we gave.”

The students were fortunate to listen to Aboriginal Elder Donald Fraser talk about his life growing up during the missionary period in nearby Ernabella, before the APY lands were established.

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They also spent time with Donald’s wife Imuna, who taught the students traditional styles of painting and dance, and sang to the students during a special Inma ceremony.

“The ceremony was a very significant part of our trip because it was an amazing way to spend our last night, dancing under the stars with the community, making us feel as if we were a part of the Kenmore mob,” Grace Ardino said.

“Aside from staying with the community, a couple of highlights were riding camels, going on the rim walk around Kings Canyon, and seeing the sun set over Uluru, plus sleeping under stars in our swags each night.”

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All students agreed the trip was an incredible experience which exceeded their expectations.

The students also gave thanks to Lucy Sensei and PDHPE Educator Caitlin Cockburn for organising the trip and “making this experience a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity”.

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