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!
QUT BIG LIFT
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