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)
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