Entry 1: Out of Our Comfort Zones

To be able to work alongside members of a community and support their needs or requests will be an instructive, exciting and perhaps confronting experience…

The opportunity to take part in the Community Field School based in Barunga is one I’m very much looking forward to for a variety of reasons, including: being able to see the stars where there is little to no light pollution; meeting other people going on the field trip and members of the Barunga community and hearing their stories; appreciating a new life rhythm and experiencing living in a different landscape; having different priorities and responsibilities and collaborating with people I’ve never met before; learning a little about a different way of life and seeing the world from different perspectives; and challenging myself and engaging in purposeful work.

Archaeology is something I’ve always wanted to explore and since returning to study, the most informative and rewarding element of the courses (although the academic aspect has been enjoyable as well) has been the hands-on practical work in which I’ve taken part. To be able to work alongside members of a community and support their needs or requests will be an instructive, exciting and perhaps confronting experience where there will be moments of discomfort and awkwardness but also camaraderie, unity and peace from the white noise of the city.

Like with any trip visiting a different culture I can only begin to imagine what it might be like and what I’ll encounter both in terms of the physical and the mental demands. So…I am going with an open mind to make the most of my time and contribute whatever and wherever I can. I’m glad that we’ll be working in teams to complete assignments, to buy food and plan a meal to eat as a community and that we’ll have time to interact, do work and reflect.

My only expectation is to learn – in all the ways that learning may present itself…

 

Entry 2: Experiences and Challenges

Such trust in knowledge and understanding of the land is mind boggling.

DAY 1 – Barunga

The most important thing I learnt on the first day was that it is culturally appropriate to serve community members first and offer cups of tea during their visit. What I understand is that we are both hosts and guests as are the community members, but we are on their land so we welcome/thank/share the space with food and drink.

DAY 2 – Djroupni Rock Shelter

2 kms off the main road into the bush, and then down a rocky escarpment is a rock shelter not easy to find or access – proof the people of the area knew the land intimately and that wild plums, passionfruit and cheeky yams were there. They knew the stone was good to use as grinding stones and the yellow in the rock for paint. They knew the creek nearby could provide fish and a place where the yam could be washed to get the toxins out.

DAY 3 – Visiting Manyallaluk

The last thing I had expected was to have the opportunity to buy a basket woven from pandanas leaves and a painting from local artists, Carol and Richard. The woven work is beautiful, intricate and delicate. Such a seemingly simple artefact involves a complex method of production. How did the first weaver know which plant or tree root would dye the leaves purple, yellow or red and the process of how to do it? Were they looking for food and found colour? Or were they experimenting with different organic material to find the right colour? How and why were the pandanas leaves chosen? How was it found that the leaves could be peeled from each other and why this produced the best result? How did the painter know that grass could be made into a brush? Such trust in knowledge and understanding of the land is mind boggling.

 

Entry 3: Take Away Thoughts

I think that what I got out of the field school is a better knowledge of Aboriginal people and their culture in Barunga, a better understanding about how to record a cemetery, and an insight into how ethnoarchaeology can be an effective way to support people’s right to their culture.

Last night (Sunday 15/7/18) I had a show-and-tell of my pics and videos with my family and it was interesting to relive some of the experiences and events. Being asked questions was also a little challenging as it made me have to think about how I was going to articulate an answer and whether I understood what I was talking about and conveyed it as it should be conveyed.

Some of the stories – particularly the ones around mysticism I don’t think I gave justice and one really had to be there to both embrace and capture the mood of the event.

I think that what I got out of the field school is a better knowledge of Aboriginal people and their culture in Barunga, a better understanding about how to record a cemetery, and an insight into how ethnoarchaeology can be an effective way to support people’s right to their culture. The donkeys left over from mining and the buffalo left over from wanting to provide meat to the north were also something I had never really thought about.

What I had originally thought was going to be a more rural experience ended up being quite urban with 80s music, the supermarket and a church with a North American pastor!

As ever working as part of a group had its pros and cons with challenging behaviour marring the atmosphere at times – but this was minor and the people who made an effort to get along and work cooperatively far outweighed those that found this more difficult to do.