Well I have never been to an Indigenous community before and before this trip I had no idea what to expect from the places we were going and from the people we would be meeting. Ashamidely I admit I have been largely ignorant of the culture and traditions of the Indigenous people of Australia, and so I have been looking forward to remedy this.
The first destination of this journey was the community of Cherbourg. Upon seeing the town I felt so excited, it looked so beautiful in the most unique way. We were welcomed with a tour of the Ration Shed Museum and Rocko gave us the history of the community which was very fascinating and tragic. Cherbourg was an old mission, with Indigenous people being taken away from their land and their families and brought to what has now become Cherbourg. Rocko told us that many people in the community, including himself, still had no idea of their family history and where their land is. I found this so tragic and sad, I guess it reminds me of taking a plant that is well established in the ground, ripping it up from its roots and trying to replant it in soil that it isn’t suited to and without its roots. How does a plant flourish and grow when that happens? This made me think of my family and realise how much it means to me that I know where I came from and where my ancestors have come from. I have taken it for granted how much I rely on my family as part of my identity, it really forms my foundations and I can’t imagine how it must feel to have this forcefully taken away. I also cannot get out of my head how anyone could think it is acceptable to remove those things from a person, it really is unfathomable.
Despite the most tragic of beginnings of this town I don’t think I will never, ever feel more warmly welcomed into a town. Within half an hour of setting our things up in our accommodation and starting a few games outside about 20 kids came running up to us out of nowhere and began to play soccer with us. They came laughing and smiling with so much friendliness and openness and they were truly the most beautiful children I have ever met. Playing a game of soccer in the early evening, as the sun began to set and the air began to cool, surrounded by all these beautiful children, will stay in my memory forever. The next day 200 trees were planted in Cherbourg by ourselves, members of the community and the school children, a perfect day of community spirit.
Our next stop was the town of Eidsvold, the prettiest little town!! Each of us had the most enjoyable and amazing experiences in this town. My enjoyable little experience was digging a hole with Kass, Andrea and Maddie for an orange tree in the garden of the youth centre. The spot we chose for the tree just so happened to be the hardest piece of ground in the entire world! However, we worked together all morning, with pick axes, garden forks and shovels until we had the best hole for our orange tree! I have never been more proud of digging a hole in my life! I’m not sure why this hole meant so much to me but it did!
We were all so sad to leave this town and all the beautiful people we met!
Last night we arrived in the town of Theodore, which was horribly affected by the January floods. This town looked like the most perfect little Australian town, so beautiful! In Theodore we were put into small groups and went out to families to help them out with odd jobs around their homes, and I absolutely loved this! Michael, Teleah and myself had the best fun with our family gardening all morning, in the boiling hot sun, chatting away to each other and to our hosting family. Because of our efforts they have a nice area for a rose garden and ground ready for a grassy area and hopefully because of a few hours work they can have a few days to relax, Next we went to a park for a community barbeque by the river. I thought I would just have a bit of a paddle in the river, but as soon as my feet hit the water I couldn’t resist diving in! It was the cleanest, purest, most refreshing feeling I have ever felt! I have always craved to feel more ‘Australian’, and have always felt sad my childhood didn’t consist of camping, fishing and swimming in rivers, all the things my friends got to do, so this moment of swimming in this towns river was my little childhood moment and it felt sooooooo good!
Thus far this trip has been everything I wanted it to be. I wanted to get outdoors and feel sweaty and dirty, to work hard and make a difference. These days have been perfect and filled with so much kindness, warmth and friendliness and I could happily spend my days like this, and I hope one day I can.
- Monica (Das Gupta)
It amazes me that as I write this, we have successfully completed all of our service projects. Right now, we are about twenty minutes out of Theodore. Rihanna and Nicki Minaj are melodically commenting in the background. I have never been so proud of young people in my life. I know that sounds like such a grandma comment whose grand daughter arrived home safely from schoolies. Think what you like about young people, but let me tell you we Big Lifters have done our university, our hometowns, our parents all so very proudly.
I try and recall my favourite moments on this journey, and I am really struggling. There have been so many beautiful moments taking place. Playing cricket with the biggest pearly whites in Cherbourg, listening to people share their story from birth to present (it can feel that way at times), seeing our strong women helping to complete the Wakka Wakka Women’s Centre in Eidsvold, planting in excess of two hundred native Bunya Pines in the Cherbourg community, or working with children in Eidsvold challenging their creativity to solve problems. This was in the first two days. This trip reminds me of when I returned to Australia from Europe, except I am in Australia. When I came home from Europe I didn’t want to upload photos, or share these stories on the net, or through Facebook statuses. I just like keeping these memories to myself. These are memories I have created, and I see such disclosure as letting go of the many touching moments we have shared with our Indigenous brothers and sisters.
There is one thing that I want to share though in greater detail. That is for mainstream society to never underestimate the power of little communities, and in particular small Indigenous communities. The strength, perseverance, and respect they have for one another is admirable. White Australia definitely has a lot to learn. Yes we could have picked towns there were larger, more resourceful, with more developed infrastructure, who were used to people visiting them. As the QUT Big Lift continues to grow, I want to commit more work with the under resourced communities, to stand beside them in support of their development, building sustainable, positive relations in which forty-one superheroes from Queensland’s best university helped out with in 2011.
For me 2011 has been the most beautiful years. I have had my fair share of personal achievements this year, but after this trip, they pail in comparison to the achievements of my Big Lifters. Thank you to each and every one of you for opening your eyes, minds, and hearts to the communities in Cherbourg, Eidsvold, and Theodore. Thank you for demonstrating genuine leadership, commitment, care, and patience with the founding members, each other, and most definitely the people, young and old. You have all changed my life.
President of QUT Big Lift
We are half way through our trip and it has been momentous! In some ways it feels like we have been away a couple of weeks, the diversity of events and experiences has made the trip feel voluminous. The Big Lifts main focus is is somewhat difficult to pin down. We are seeing new places, playing games, swimming and eating like we are on holidays and on the other hand we are working on multiple projects with the vigour of a seasonal outdoor worker and offering our services for free. We are also meeting people in rural communities, children, leaders and elders which envelops a rich cultural exchange. And we are participating in group activities that range from pure playful fun to much more reflective. So how can I summarise THIS?? It is certainly an ‘experience’. Imagine all the stories that we will have at the conclusion of this week…
For me, Eidsvold was all about gardening. Our team did a ‘backyard blitz’ on the town’s youth centre (which had been out of action for a while). I absolutely love gardening and this was the perfect project. We put in garden beds, planted flowers, shrubs and fruit trees, mowed and whipper snipped, pruned the trees, reduced fire hazard materials and fixed a fence! Our team collaborated, utilising all the skills on hand to accomplish a project that we could be proud of. Eight of us worked for 7 hours the first day and four-and-a-half people for about 4 hours the second day, a total of 76 hours. Charmaine is one of the youth workers and advocates and she organised and oversaw our project. She made sure that we always had ample supplies to keep us going and endless ice cold water (it was very hot!!!). Bonnie (?) cooked us a BBQ on the first day and she is another youth worker.
Eidsvold is such a cute town, there is such a wonderful ‘cared for’ and country vibe. We were so warmly welcomed and escorted through our whole time in Eidsvold by all the friendly locals and were invited back with plans for much bigger things in the future.
After another comfortable evening on the cement floor, lulled by the symphony of snoring, the Big Lift team were refreshed and ready for another day! As it was our last day in Eidsvold everyone was keen to get started early and, not only avoid the heat, but get as much done as possible. After showers and avoiding “pi**ed off” frogs, the team had their earliest start yet with people being divided among various projects, many of which had been started the previous day.
The saddlery team continued with their “unicorn blood” silver paint (heatstroke anyone?) making absolutely awesome progress with the extra hands. It was obvious to all the enthusiasm and high spirits of this group. Marsha and Kathryn’s memorial garden design was transformed into reality at the state school – perhaps indicating a career change to landscaping? The garden was a tribute to the memory of a teacher aide who had been killed in a car crash and included a fountain, a plaque, and native plants.
Work at the youth centre was completed, after a renovation rescue on the interior the day before! Team members bashed the garden into submission with various scary garden tools, a lot of mowing, and sheer hard work. The youth group leaders, XXXX???, were really impressed and promised regular updates now that the garden only required routine maintenance. Garden parties were also the order of the day at the Eidsvold Historical Society where the team pulled a huge amount of timber debris from the garden, did up some lattices, and added new plants (work going on here looked highly impressive from the footpath). As this was a new project for the team, a huge commendation to this group for how much they achieved in such a short time.
Renovations continued at the Wakka Wakka Women’s centre with turning the soil, planting, lots of painting (we’re all secretly tradies), and some got creative with the concrete floors using the footrpints and handprints of some of the kids hanging around to decorate. The women at the centre were also keen to have the BigLift team present leave their own handprints on special boards which would be mounted on the walls later. The women’s centre team were lucky enough to be joined by an Eidsvold elder, Aunty Evon, who was also the mother of one of the women the team had been working with over the two days. We felt so privileged that Aunty Evon was so enthusiastic to share her stories with us and give us some local history on the other communities we were visiting.
While we were working, Aunty Evon actually went home to collect the sacred stones that had been in the family for eight generations and had many special meanings. We were all able to sit down with her and listen to the stories of the stones: a stone used to crush Bunya nuts and other food sources, with a thumb indent from decades of use; an axe head sharp enough to carve up kangaroo for a meal with the shadow of the old man’s face on the centre of the axe head; a heart shaped stone that on one said cried for the Aboriginal people when rubbed and on the other side could heal when rubbed over the body; and finally a stone that had the story of white invasion carved onto it using symbols such as the Commonwealth seal, an Aboriginal man holding a boomerang looking up at the holder of the stone, a dingo used for hunting that was later killed by the white man – symbolised by a dead dog and a policeman’s hat. Aunty Evon was keen to tell us the stories so that we could take them back to QUT with us and use them as valuable knowledge in our career paths.
The team then met up at the pool for lunch and were joined by various community members and many kids who we had worked with at school the previous day. Over lunch (a BBQ that included tomato! – many thanks to the Eidsvold community) the rest of the team were able to have a chat to Aunty Evon, learn some unhappy history about our accommodation, and talk about spiritual connections – especially Kopi who Aunty Evon believed had a connection to the Wakka Wakka people and a special place in the community.
With the Big Lift team assembled in the heat with a big group of kids keen for a swim, there was disappointment on everyone’s’ face when we belatedly received the news that the lifeguard had needed to leave town for medical reasons and that the pool would not be able to open. Frowns were turned into smiles however when it was discovered that out multi-talented, and all-round amazing, bus driver Duncan was actually a qualified life guard! So excited to continue our journey!
This is Nathan here. On the first full day in Eidsvold I helped out at the old RSL being converted into a youth centre for the local kids. We dug garden beds, planted trees, mowed and fixed the fence to name just a few jobs. You can imagine, doing all of this in the intense heat of Northern Queensland would be quite draining, and sure enough we had to stop regularly for drink breaks. The day after, myself and some other keen individuals helped to finish off a hole for a memorial fountain, designed by our very own Marcia and Kathryn. We finished that in approximately an hour and made our way to the historical society to help out. At the historical society me and the other boys helped to move historical railway carriages, remove weeds from amongst ancient machine parts and re-stack planks that had a whole eco-system of their own underneath! The most fulfilling part of this day for me was being able to interact with the old men who were helping us, and learning more about not only the history of the objects we were working with, but individual stories as well. Being able to help at Eidsvold has really emphasised to me the importance of having an understanding and a relationship with the people you’re helping. We made many great friends and I truly believe that without the lovely and genuine people in Eidsvold our experience would not have been nearly as good.
The experiences and opportunities we took and gave in Eidsvold are ones money just can’t buy. We thank the members of the Eidsvold community dearly for all their support and we are very keen on re-visiting. Although we were about 2 hours late for Theodore because the air con in the bus stopped working and Duncan had to fix it, I’m sure no body was complaining about having to stay in Eidsvold for an extra 2 hours.
On an end note, we just want to say YEAH BUDDY!
This is Teleah updating you all on some of the events of the Big Lift Team, all the way from Eidsvold, Queensland. The two days we spent there were more than eventful. Our days consisted of A LOT of manual labour in various areas within the community. Some students participated in an Optiminds project, where they grouped up with students from Eidsvold State School and worked with them on activities, which melted their brains. This small school catered for 86 students all the way from prep to grade 12. I was paired up with the lovely Leonie and we took our 5 kids outside to play our first game. If anyone knows the game Jenga, it was the same theory, however we used wooden blocks and they were significantly larger. Admittedly, we built the tower up almost as high as Leonie and I (about 150cm ;) ) which was a little awkward because some of these kids were taller than us. At the end of the day, the kids from all groups gathered together and we all played a few games together. I wasn’t very good at them to be honest and I learnt that those kids are A LOT better than me at any game involving numbers. Our final goodbye consisted of 3 ‘fireworks’ from the students, which were 3 loud claps and a giant YEAH BUDDY for some of the most amazing kids I have ever met in my life. It was great to know they had a good time and that we made an impact on them all. I felt like I really connected with the kids in a way that cannot be explained in words. They are such smart kids and they will all go such a long way, they just need the opportunities.
It’s day two of our life changing adventure and my oh my have we been doing some big lifting!
Most eyes were open by 6:30am, an early but eager start for our team. Big lifting tunes blared through the house and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one impressed by Michael and Jelena’s performance of Superbass!
Showered, fed and packed up ready to go, we assembled in the yard for some energising morning games – Aru-cha-cha put a smile on everyone’s face =), while Little Sally has become a group favourite (a game that involves showing just how groovy your moves are!).
After meeting Mayor Sam Murray of Cherbourg, we split up into 3 groups – 2 groups for tree planting and 1 group for rubbish removal. Members of the community drove us to the tree planting sites while giving us some local knowledge along the way.
We planted trees with members of the community and were honoured to meet some of Cherbourg’s local elders! The Murri Rangers helped us to dig holes while the students of Cherbourg school joined in to give us a hand. It wasn’t too long before a dance circle was formed between the students and some our of Big Lifters. Despite Michael’s impressive efforts, the students weren’t as keen to show us their moves as we were to show them ours.
One of our Big Lifters found some heritage in Cherbourg! Her grandfather was a stockman in Cherbourg and her father John grew up in the town. Imagine the surprise on Emma’s face when one of the community members Percy, knew exactly who she was talking about when she mentioned her father’s name.
Back to the council office for a BBQ lunch and an inspirational speech by the Mayor. It think it’s safe to say that we all left full and satisfied!
A final clean up of the house and an extra clean of the bathroom (thanks to our dirty feet!) and we were back on the bus, ready to say goodbye to the inspirational community of Cherbourg.
Currently on our way to Eidsvold for a 2 night stay. Bonds have been formed throughout the team which will only grow stronger as we continue our journey.
I am so proud of our QUT Big Lifters!
(AKA Magical Miki) =)
A traffic jam on our first day; effects of the flood producing a 20 min wait on our drive from Kilcoy to Cherbourg. Already our eyes have been opened the extent of damage from the floods and this reinforces our motivation to assist wider Qld communities.
To help pass the time our bus driver Duncan provided us a riddle:
You are driving down the road on a miserable evening and you come to a bus stop. At the bus stop are three people waiting but you only have room in the car for one person. The three people are an elderly lady on her death bed, your life long mate who has previously saved your life, and the third is the love of your life. What do you do?
Comment your solution.
Day 1 is under way and the excitement of the crew has infectiously spread to our 'Little Lifters'. With the bus finally packed and a sentimental send off from QUT's Lee Crockfordand Kim Ah Sam, the trip finally began. Team Mascot Lola (a small dog) was also there to see us off.
After a quiet start from our lifters, a lovely BBQ at Kilcoy Yowie Park woke them up and got them moving. The chatter of the bus indicated initial signs of friendship and excitement for future days. Are we in for a treat!
Once we arrived at Cherbourg, we were warmly welcomed by Rocko, Sandra and Robyn and the rest of the Ration Shed Museum Crew. It was a fitting orientation into the Cherbourg community and our tour through the Old Boys Dormitory brought the community’s hardships into reality. Rocko shared personal accounts from his family’s journeys and it was a privilege to have been party to this. The provision of tea, coffee and cake made for a lovely opportunity to have a yarn, and entertainment was provided by a small and overfriendly dog (Day 1 and already small dogs were taking a liking to us!)
At approximately 6pm, we moved onto our accommodation for the evening – the old principal’s house located on the school grounds. Within minutes of arriving, the children of Cherbourg had spotted us and paid us a visit. Overwhelmed by their attention, we quickly devised games to interact with them and were playing soccer, cricket and Uno before too long. It was wonderful! Upon nightfall, we bid the children farewell and got stuck into cooking the feast for the evening – Lemon Chicken and Rice. Michael and his team of Master Chef’s cooked up a storm! A quick clean up and then it was downstairs for the first night of Big Lift Activities. We began with an hour long name memory game – beginning with Magical Miki and ending with Graceful Grace, with a whole lot of terrific Teleah’s and torturous Terry’s in between. We upped the energy levels with a quick game of High Five Unique Trait and embraced our girly screams. The night ended with the Accountability-Buddy assignment game and an intrapersonal moment, to make a connection with ourselves by identifying our own values, beliefs, areas for improvements and aspirations. The evening ended with making Shower Lists and finding spaces to sleep.
Bring on Day 2!
Over and Out
Packing, printing, binding, shopping, listing, checking, labelling, calling, confirming, stacking, shifting....
We have been busy bees... and the trip hasn't even started yet! Big Lift 2011 is going to be one amazing experience and no amount of verbs or adjectives will give justice to what we are about to embark on!
Never have I been more proud of the Crew, and I can't wait to spend the next 8 days getting to know them better! Not to mention the amazing 40 odd other participants who I am so excited to meet and greet!! My lame sense of humour is going to get a workout! With less than 12 hours to go... I must start and complete packing! Cheers to you all and stay tuned for more of our adventures...... Big Lifters Unite!!!
Over and Out
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