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!
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
QUT BIG LIFT
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