Saint Ignatius College Geelong

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    Cape York Indigenous Immersion

    Article by Mrs Hodge and Ms Wood

    Cape York Indigenous Immersion  

    It was a very enthusiastic and enlightened 31 Year 9 students who recently returned from a 10 day Indigenous Immersion to Cape York. Students were immersed in the culture and history of our First Nations People, while staying with the Yalanji people from the remote Jajikal and Bana homelands. The Elders and Traditional owners were so generous in sharing their knowledge of the land (bubu), their lifestyle, traditions, food and stories. 

    We learnt about bush medicine and some of the students even got to try using green ants to prevent hay fever. We met 80 year old elder Alfie; he told us stories about his childhood growing up with his pet cassowary. 

    The brave ones of the group went witchetty grub hunting in fallen candlenut trees and later ate them live. They tasted like a cross between a chicken and a prawn. On our last evening on the homelands, we were treated to a “Kup Murri” dinner which was cooked in the earth oven amidst the hot coals for five hours.  Using the funds which they raised last term, students worked alongside the elders and traditional owners to build fences, install gates, fix existing fencing, painting signs and building a water tank stand, in order to create sustainable practices so the Traditional Owners can live on their ancestral land. 

    Student Ane Smith wrote the following when describing her immersion experience…

     “I attended the Cape York immersion in 2019 with Saint Ignatius and all I can say is it was incredible. In 10 days I learned all about the lifestyle of the traditional owners we visited, the Yalanji people, including their stories, their culture, their traditions, their hunting methods, plus how to fish and collect mussels in the mangroves.  I visited many sacred sites and learnt about the significance and culture behind these places. I learnt through observation many things as well, including the importance of family and togetherness. I was able to get involved with community projects both in Jajikal and Bana and got to know those indigenous family members whom I was helping, and talked with them as they guided us in fencing and digging holes. Importantly, I grew closer to the student group as a whole, gaining new friendships and talking to every individual, and gained more respect for the teachers. I loved the raw openness and welcome feeling that the elders brought to every discussion. They were so engaging and kind to talk to, although their stories of loss and hardship were moving to listen to. I’m going to miss the birds chirping every morning, the simplicity of life and the connections we made with these gentle, resilient community leaders. This is a trip that will stick with me forever.” 

    Our students came back changed from their experiences; more respectful of the world’s oldest continuous living culture and determined to drive reconciliation for Aboriginal people. Students set the foundations in building an enduring connection to remote Indigenous Australia by emulating St Ignatius in his quest ‘to love and to serve’ and to listen with an open heart. We were so proud of the close, warm bonds they formed with our Indigenous brothers and sisters. 

    We look forward to continuing our friendship with the Traditional Owners in Bana and Jajikal in 2020, when we return with more interested Year 9 students. 

    Mrs Hodge and Ms Wood

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