Entry 1: Out of Our Comfort Zones

There is an attraction to the uncomfortable and the unfamiliar and I intend to embrace this fully during the field school.

While waiting to head to the field school at the Barunga community in the Northern Territory, I am both excited and nerve wracked. I am really looking forward to meeting the Indigenous community; to learn from them and hear from them. Really, I did not know about Community Archaeology before I started my studies and I am only just beginning to understand the importance and the value that this specific type of archaeology holds for both the archaeologist and the community through mutual learning and understanding. And while the field school is outside of my comfort zone and the decision to participate was compulsive, I have no regrets. There is an attraction to the uncomfortable and the unfamiliar and I intend to embrace this fully during the field school.

I expect there to be discomfort and adjustment; I have never been to the Northern Territory and the climate will take some getting used to, but above this I have not been given the opportunity to interact with an Indigenous community in this way before. I am excited to learn things and am determined to approach this opportunity with an open mind and as little developed expectations as possible. I want to take the experiences and learning as they are presented to me. Being a very organised person this is hard for me, but I believe that approaching the field school with as little preconceived ideals as possible will really allow me to best learn and experience, to develop and to grow, however cliché that may sound. I am looking forward to the sun, to the knowledge, experience and to the relationships –  the friendships, I will make.

 

Entry 2: Experiences and Challenges

…but I am finding it hard to be around people all the time. There’s almost no personal time. This, for me, is the hardest part…

Barunga is not easy. But it is beautiful. I am not so much struggling with meeting with the community or beginning the project or writing the journal, but I am finding it hard to be around people all the time. There’s almost no personal time. This, for me, is the hardest part, but by far not the most impactful. Looking at the people here and how they view the world is eye opening. I have seen so much of their history and experienced so much I never thought I would have, even in such a short amount of time.

Visiting the Barunga cemetery with the community’s Traditional Owners and Elders was an experience that held complicated feelings and emotions for me. Seeing Guy and Rachel try to find, and maybe fail, to find the graves of their families, was so deeply sad. But seeing the plots covered with huge piles of artificial flowers showed hope, happiness and a love I’m not sure I can understand.  I have learnt that Barunga is filled with colour. Looking out of my tent at 6:30 in the morning, and seeing the sky painted with colours, the flowers at the cemetery, the dyed fibres of the Pandanus palm in brilliant mauves, golden yellows and burnt oranges – these have both coloured my experience. I think I expected someplace devoid or without things but I have found that this place is filled with more. More life, more love, more culture.

I have been given a skin name. It is Wamutjan. I am Wamutjan. There is no doubt that I want to come back this way – there is so much more in the desert then I ever thought. I have learnt how amazing it is to make something out of almost nothing. I saw Richard make a paint brush out of spinifex grass, Jocelyn make damper and Carol collect colour from nature. I have already learnt a lot and found a lot challenging. There’s always a time of acclimation  but I think I have settled in just fine. It is different here, there is no denying that, and I do find it somewhat difficult to navigate the social expectations when interacting with the Barunga Community. Having jumped in the deep end and to get out of my comfort zone has so far been beyond impactful.

 

Entry 3: Take Away Thoughts

Barunga’s amalgamation of tradition and colonial beliefs, a mixture of the old and the new, really symbolised my entire experience.

Looking back on the experience now more than half a week since leaving the Barunga community, there seems to be an innumerable amount of lessons learned and things taken away. I was able to view the world through a different gaze, even though it was only for a miniscule amount of time. Not one, like I had thought originally, painted by poverty or a lack of modernity, but a perspective enriched with culture and beliefs. I learnt practical things too, of course. My surveying skills and teamwork were improved by working on the cemetery project and not only did I get to practise recording procedures, but also report writing. All of this was done in a team setting. But, somewhat more importantly, I think, I was able to become comfortable in my abilities and recognise the areas I still need to work on.

Barunga’s amalgamation of tradition and colonial beliefs, a mixture of the old and the new, really symbolised my entire experience. I had been camping before, so there was the familiar, but not in that setting, so there was the new. What I took away from this experience was much the same; I kind of knew what I was getting into, but so much of my presumptions were rewritten or edited and my skills improved upon.

I learnt a lot about myself, however cliché that sounds. I also got see so much culture. Seeing the cave art will be an experience I’ll never forget. The balance of always the light and dark colours being painted together. I met amazing people; community members and other archaeology students alike. I learnt so much from them. Being only a second-year archaeology student, seeing real archaeology was invaluable. Overall, the trip taught be about myself as well as archaeology and I cannot iterate enough how valuable this is and the experience was.