Entry 1: Out of Our Comfort Zones

I hope that I can keep my mind, heart, ears and hands open at all times (if possible) and hopefully stay in the moment.

When it comes to expectations, in a way I will endeavour to lay these aside as best as I can, for they can sometimes act as traps in a way; influencing and dictating. I hope that I can keep my mind, heart, ears and hands open at all times (if possible) and hopefully stay in the moment.

However there is no doubt that this community archaeology field school presents a unique opportunity. I feel that it could provide me with an understanding of how to collaborate with or work for a community as well as how to integrate a community’s needs and wants into your work. I believe that it may also highlight how the processes of an activist archaeology or an applied anthropology, and the knowledge it produces, can both satisfy community needs whilst benefitting them directly. To have the opportunity to connect with other ways of thinking, other ways of being and to get a feel for what it may be like to work with and be situated within other knowledge systems also means that this school could act as a transformational space for me.

Importantly I also believe that this field school will impart valuable knowledge around good teamwork and group dynamics as well as how to support and trust people during stressful situations.

At this point in time I am not sure exactly where I am headed on my learning journey as my undergrad degree nears completion, what my Honours year will entail, or what lies beyond that; however I do feel that this undertaking will constitute an important step on this winding path. Although I am studying anthropology, lately I find myself drawn more towards archaeology, so the prospect of acquiring a range of new skills and techniques in this area is also very exciting, a process that I will continue into the future.

So now there is nothing to it but to do it. In a few days’ time I shall be heading north to Jawoyn country to immerse myself within and learn from the Barunga community, to listen and learn from Claire, Gary, Jordan and Antoinette of Flinders University, to gain knowledge from my fellow students, to connect with family I have never met, and ultimately to learn about myself.

 

Entry 2: Experiences and Challenges

I have also learnt that research within, for and with communities can also be a lengthy process whereby the forming of relationships and trust at the outset is the most important part of the whole journey.

What I am learning?

I am learning about and witnessing the resilience and dynamism of an Aboriginal culture and community; about change and continuity in cultural practices.  I am also getting a very basic grasp of the matrilineal kinship system of the Bagala clan in which individuals trace their primary kinship relationships through their mothers and how this serves to define and organise the community; ordering relationships and responsibilities. I am beginning to see how such systems provide continuity between generations. Moreover I have been introduced to the most basic level of the Bagala clan moiety system (Dhuwa and Yirritja) that acts as the support for the entire cultural system and how this ultimately ties back to the cosmology of the Dreaming and is born from and still emanates from the land.

I have also learnt that research within, for and with communities can also be a lengthy process whereby the forming of relationships and trust at the outset is the most important part of the whole journey.

What are the challenges I am facing?

The main challenges I am facing at this point are the ability to get the community project I am working on underway. This has mainly been due to a timing issue and the ability to arrange an appropriate time for some of the community members to come and work with the team. I grasp that with a major project in which you are conducting any research for and with a community that the forming of a trusting relationship is the most important component; however, this is not really possible in the short time I am here and thus this is a source of stress. This has nothing to do with assessments, but rather I feel that if I offer up substandard work that this is a reflection on me.

The other challenges lie in existing in such close quarters with a large group of people and dealing with the many personalities involved. I feel that the stress around completing assessments, coupled with a little bit of not knowing what is coming next is the root of some of the tensions. I can imagine though that if this was a major project whereby the whole team was working together on the one venture that that these would be eased somewhat.

 

Entry 3: Take Away Thoughts

This field school has given me the drive and confidence to continue on my current path…

I feel privileged to have been a part of this field school. I witnessed and learnt from a resilient dynamic, diverse, culture and community, came in contact with the most complex kinship system on the planet and fleetingly brushed against other ways of being and other ways of thinking. This field school also showed me not only the levels of permission that need to be navigated before even thinking about research, but also the correct manner in which this is to be done.  It also taught me that the initial understanding, relationship building and consulting with the community is the most important factor which then makes it possible to integrate its needs and wants effectively into your work so that you can produce something that satisfies community needs.

This field school has given me the drive and confidence to continue on my current path and gave me a greater understanding of how I can possibly use my discipline to not only aid First Nations communities in the continuation of their cultures/lifeways, but to ally myself with them and perhaps create a louder voice when speaking back to power.  At Barunga I learnt from an amazing group of people and gained a range of skills that will aid me in the academic/professional realm and also in my personal life.

Thank you to the Traditional Owners, Elders and the entire Barunga community for being so welcoming and for having me. Thank you to Jordan, Antoinette and Jasmine for everything you have taught me. Thanks most of all to Claire and Gary, you are both an inspiration.