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)
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.
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) =)
QUT BIG LIFT
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