Entry 1: Out of Our Comfort Zones

I see it as an opportunity to learn about the people of Barunga and the many projects they are involved with, as well as improve my archaeological knowledge and expertise.

While I have been on other field schools, I have never visited Barunga, so I am very excited to see what it has to offer. I thoroughly enjoy engaging with communities and working with other people, so I am eager to partake in community archaeology work, which I think will be equally interesting and challenging.

I am also enthusiastic about undertaking work that is of direct interest to the public and which will assist them. I like the thought of contributing to something that will make a difference in the lives of other people and I hope that my daughter, who will be accompanying me on the trip, can appreciate the importance of the work that will be undertaken.

I honestly don’t know what to expect, but I anticipate that there will be numerous skills that will need to be employed, both archaeological and community-based. These will include people skills for the purposes of collecting oral histories and communicating with the public, cataloguing and mapping. Therefore, while I believe it will be important to have some archaeological training, the ability to interact with people in the community will be equally as imperative.

Overall, I am very much looking forward to this adventure. I see it as an opportunity to learn about the people of Barunga and the many projects they are involved with, as well as improve my archaeological knowledge and expertise. I am very fortunate to be able to be involved with such an important and valuable experience.

 

Entry 2: Experiences and Challenges

I would never have known to sit down when talking or that I have to be clever in the way I ask questions…

Two days into the journey and I have learned so much already.  I have met the Traditional Owners, as well as the Junggayi, who have offered me a much better understanding of the laws of the land and the permissions required to work here. I have received my skin name and am getting a much better understanding of the kinship system as a result. I have also learned about traditional burial practices and the ceremonies that historically accompanied them, as well as Dhuwa and Yirritja moeities and their importance in Aboriginal culture.

Thanks to Jacko I have also learned about proper etiquette when communicating in Indigenous communities. I would never have known to sit down when talking or that I have to be clever in the way I ask questions because Indigenous communities believe no one has the right to knowledge.

And thanks to Nathan, Jordan and Claire, I have a much deeper understanding of how the Intervention affected Indigenous families and communities, and as a result a much better appreciation of the emotional impact it had.

The main challenge I have faced has been trying to retain so much information in such little time. While very interesting content, I have found it slightly overwhelming trying to remember all that has been said. However, the journal has helped overcome this problem to an extent.

The other challenge has been the camping. I have done very little camping in the past and I’m struggling to get used to living out of the one bag, sleeping on the ground and generally putting my princess ways behind me.

Prior to this field school I had very little knowledge of Aboriginal culture or practice; however, I feel that after the last few days my knowledge and skill has significantly improved thanks to the people of the Barunga community and those who work within it. While I still have much to learn, I feel much more confident than I did on the first day.

 

Entry 3: Take Away Thoughts

The knowledge that many of these community members possessed about particular burials was amazing, and it reinforced the importance of having community involvement in all projects, especially ones involving sacred sites.

My experience working in Barunga is one that will stay with me forever. The people, both archaeology students and teachers, as well as local community members, made my experience a very enjoyable and memorable one.

From sitting around the campfire sharing stories and food, to running around playing ‘tap tap’ with my daughter and the local children, there was never a dull moment. Amongst the hard work there were plenty of laughs, something which made the distance from home seem less great.

The work we were privileged enough to be involved with also made for a highly memorable experience. It was an honour to be able to work with local community members to assist in recording grave sites and contribute to creating a more organised space for burials. The knowledge that many of these community members possessed about particular burials was amazing, and it reinforced the importance of having community involvement in all projects, especially ones involving sacred sites.

However, the main thing I take from my time in Barunga is a much greater appreciation of Indigenous culture, beliefs and way of life. Before going to Barunga I thought I had a reasonable understanding of all of these things, but I soon realised that I had much to learn. Living within the community and being given the opportunity to share in its knowledge offered me a much greater awareness of Indigenous spirituality, practices, and language amongst many other aspects. As a result I feel I have grown both as an archaeologist and an individual.