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
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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