Entry 1: Out of Our Comfort Zones

We fully expect this experience to be a life changing one for ourselves and our children and are very much looking forward to it.

Prior to this field school my husband, two children and myself have been on the road from Adelaide for almost a week. We will very much be looking forward to spending some time in one place for a few days before continuing to Townsville to live for 6 months. I have lived in an Aboriginal community before at Oodnadatta so I have some ideas of what to expect from staying with a community like this. I am expecting it to be small with basic amenities. I am expecting there to be camp dogs and adorable Aboriginal children running around with no shoes on and very little in the way of time limits and restrictions. I am hoping my children, who are both girls aged nine and four, will make friends with the local kids and get to experience a different way of life. We are a little nervous about cooking for everyone as we (my husband and I) have never cooked for that many people before. I am hoping that there is a community project of some description which will be consistent with our skills and abilities. We fully expect this experience to be a life changing one for ourselves and our children and are very much looking forward to it.

 

Entry 2: Experiences and Challenges

We are having an incredible experience here and to be able to immerse ourselves in this culture and community life and provide this experience for ourselves and our children is having a profound effect on us all.

Well where do I start!!?? We (Dan, Willow, Ayla and I) as a family have learned and experienced such a vast amount in the last few days about this incredible culture, each other and ourselves. Community life and living simply feels so humbling and it is a feeling that cannot be properly described, but I can only conclude it must be good for the soul. Working in a team environment has been both challenging and extremely rewarding and I feel we have been blessed with being placed in such a lovely group of people who all get along so well, and everyone just does what needs doing without complaints and things have gone so smoothly.

I am so excited to have a chance to work on my and Dan’s project on the stone tools which were repatriated from Drupni rock shelter as Claire is intending on writing an academic paper which will eventually be published. The paper will be on the differences between Western and Indigenous categorisation of these sorts of artefacts. Dan and I will provide an initial report which will hopefully be useful for this paper and it will be our first publication so to say we are excited and honoured is an understatement!

My kids are having the best time; however, Ayla is a bit run down and has a bit of a cold. I was so overwhelmed with gratitude when Claire decided to try and get a 60 metre extension cord in town today so that we can run the humidifier for her tonight. Her commitment to this project, the community and to this group continues to blow me away.

The local children here have touched my heart in a way that is difficult to explain. Especially my special little sister, Janaya. Janaya is a 9 year old girl (the same as Willow, my oldest daughter). She follows me everywhere and is always so helpful and affectionate. I can see how the local people (and especially the children) become so ingrained and imprinted on the people who come to visit them. Janaya is my sister because she is Wamutjan which is the same skin as my own. Jas gave us our skins and I am Watmutjan because apparently us girls are bright and bubbly. My husband Dan is my first choice which is Bungardi, and my girls are Narritjan.

We are having an incredible experience here and to be able to immerse ourselves in this culture and community life and provide this experience for ourselves and our children is having a profound effect on us all. I just hope I can get enough work done with so much else going on around us!

 

Entry 3: Take Away Thoughts

The many children that came to play with ours each day at the tent became etched on our hearts and a couple in particular I genuinely miss already!

After a few days of reflection and processing I have come to realise that Barunga has indeed been as I thought it would be: A life changing experience! I feel privileged and honoured to have been accepted into the community with open arms and I have learned so much about respect, this country we live in and about the original inhabitants of this land. I have learned of some of the heartaches and struggles that the people of this community have endured and must still endure (although I can never truly understand the depth of it), due to an aggressive colonial occupation of their ancestral lands.

In particular I am fascinated with the intricately complex kinship (skin) system that the people of the Barunga-Wugularr region live by. I feel I have only just scratched the surface of this, the most complex system of its kind in the world! I feel greatly honoured to have been given my own skin (Wamutjan) and that having my family present, each with their own skin, gave me a greater insight into how the system works than I believe I otherwise would have had.

This being my first field school I am excited to have finally had the chance to see whether I would cope working in a very team-oriented environment whilst still looking after children and getting work done. I am proud to say that I think we all got through it quite well as a family. There were many challenges and no early nights as night time was the only time we could study without the constant need to fulfil other daily responsibilities. I did not mind staying up late to work, however, because it felt exciting to be in the field and to have the feeling of purpose for the first time since starting this degree nearly 10 years ago! The thrill I got just from being there and being useful was enough to help overcome any challenges.

The children being there opened up a doorway into the community which we hadn’t expected. The many children that came to play with ours each day at the tent became etched on our hearts and a couple in particular I genuinely miss already!

We had a very special experience whilst in Barunga involving our daughter Ayla and the community “clever man.” Although I cannot speak of it publicly, suffice is to say that this particular experience was the most life changing event which occurred during the whole experience. Above all I have learned not to be presumptuous about anything and that it is far better to listen than it is to speak when being invited into a culturally rich community.