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Pelican : November 2009
Going bush with the Pied Piper St Edmund's College has 22 students of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent. In the spirit of reconciliation, we asked these boys to invite a non-Indigenous mate to accompany them on camp at Tuross Heads at the end of term 2. The camp was designed to provide the boys with a cultural and reconciliation experience that would teach them more about Indigenous culture and also increase their awareness of the issues facing Indigenous people in Australia today. The activities at the camp were run by a local man, Roderick Slockee, who is from the Walbunja and Minjungbal tribes. A didgeridoo player, dancer and Aboriginal culture and dance teacher, he has performed locally and internationally. He has welcomed both the Queen and Archbishop Desmond Tutu to country. He does many volunteer performances for non-profit organisations, schools and special events. The first activity was held at Congo where Uncle Tom Butler, a local Elder, took the boys on a bush tucker walk. He generously shared his wealth of knowledge with the boys who tasted the many different types of native food that was found along the way. Roderick was somewhat like the 'Pied Piper' and the boys had great fun making spears, decorating and throwing boomerangs as well as working on playing, decorating and modifying their didgeridoos. Roderick also taught the boys some traditional dances and, around the camp fire, told stories that kept the boys entertained well into the night. Local Aboriginal woman, Lisa Birnie, assisted the boys with painting banners that displayed symbolism and iconography as well as painting lap lap loincloths for the evening corroboree and making dampers for the camp fire. Tastes of bush tucker included witchetty grubs that the boys extracted from local trees, as well as crocodile, emu, kangaroo and camel. On the last day, Dennis Flannery -- the ACT representative from the Dare To Lead Coalition of Schools -- provided the boys with information about the challenges faced by Indigenous students today and what can be done to help them achieve sound educational outcomes. Here are some reflections from the boys on what they enjoyed most at camp: "Learning about my culture." "Trying bush tucker and meeting new friends." "...the storytelling and the spears." "Learning more about Aboriginal culture." " Trying new things like witchetty grubs!" "...the teachers trusting us and not hovering." "Mixing up the bunk rooms with different year groups." "Learning about Roderick's life." From a teacher's perspective, the greatest experience was seeing boys, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, working together to experience and share such a diverse range of activities. The ages ranged from 11 to 18 and the leadership shown by the senior students was truly inspiring. Denyse Gibbs Indigenous Co-ordinator Local Elder, Uncle Tom Butler, explaining marine life at Tuross to Dakota Smith, Braedon Smith and Jordan Kenworthy. 4