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)
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!
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.
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