It all started with an application, we had to answer the impossible question, “why?” Why did we want to go on this immersion experience? We all had our various answers – wanting to learn more about indigenous communities, contributing to the school, having a better understanding of what goes on in the culture that originally held this land as its own – little did we know, we were about to embark on a journey that would change our lives forever.
There were 13 applicants, all eager, all excited, all raring to go. We showed up to our interviews with clammy hands and full of nerves. We were greeted by Mr Neal (doubling our nerves instantly), Ms Howard, Mr Walker and Mr Maher. They questioned us almost to breaking point. After much deliberating, the teachers decided upon eight of us, Des Flanagan, Hazel Vaughan, Bec King, Zoe Levesque, Belle Culhane, Bridie Naughtin, Frances Samon and myself. Our destination, Santa Teresa, an indigenous Catholic mission 80km out of Alice Springs. We were pumped!
What ensued, were months of preparation. We needed to know some information about the community before we left. There were some rules that we needed to understand before we went to the mission, including the difference of culture and what is socially acceptable.
Unfortunately, just before the time it came for us to head off, Frances lost her grandfather and was unable to join us on our journey.
On Saturday October 15 we all got up well before the sun was peeping its head over the horizon, jumped in our various modes of transportation, and headed to Melbourne, where, at the airport, we would leave for one of the best experiences of our lives.
That afternoon we arrived at Santa Teresa to a warm welcome and climate. Our accommodation was old and basic, but we had heaps of room.
The next morning was a Sunday, so we got up and went to Mass. It wasn’t an ordinary Mass though, a seminarian who had worked in the community for two years had recently been ordained as a priest. Parents within the community wanted the new priest to baptise their babies. We also sung songs, except, we sung them in Arrernte (pronounced Aranda), the indigenous language of that region.
Throughout the week, we all did various activities. All the girls got to spend a day each in the women’s centre, where they have a child care centre with some adorable kids, and a kitchen set up for a meals on wheels service.
For most of us, the week was spent at the school, we all had different jobs, some were cleaning, some were helping teach
the younger kids Maths and English. Bridie and Des were lucky enough to sit in with Brother Rod’s senior boys class and from what they’ve said, it was confronting, but fun.
On the second last night, we drove out to a dry river bed just outside Santa Teresa. We took out a bunch of swags, guitars and some dinner and camped out. We climbed the hill behind our campsite and watched the sun set. It was a tough climb, but the view was worth it. We felt like we were on top of the world. It was the perfect way to end our trip.
It was probably the most fulfilling, enriching and enlightening experience that any of us will ever have. Mr. Walker and Ms Howard were the perfect people to accompany us on the trip. I highly recommend this trip for those who are interested in social justice and the world around them. It’s hard to put into words what the experience meant to us, you’ll just have to experience for yourself!
We’d like to thank many people for helping us raise a total of $2,700 for the community; teachers who auctioned themselves, those who bought the teachers, preserves and chocolates, Lesley Johnson for her kind donation of preserves to sell, Mick Oxenham from Edward’s Street butchers for his donation of meat for our sausage sizzles, Baker’s Delight for their donation of bread, Safeway for allowing us to have a BBQ there and for all the parents who supported our busking efforts on the night of the parent-teacher interviews. We would also like to thank our parents for supporting us in taking the journey.