In the last week of the July school holidays, four staff and 15 students went to the community of Wangkatjungka as a part of the ‘Teach, Learn and Grow’ Service Learning trip.
The purpose of the trip was to gain an appreciation of Indigenous history and culture as well as to serve through tutoring the children and other practical work around the school. Wangkatjungka is a community of about 200 people in the heart of the Kimberley region and our team from Swan was the first school group from Perth to stay in over 20 years.
The people warmly welcomed our team and there was an instant bond formed which grew even stronger as the week unfolded. Highlights of the trip included: running games and activities with the school children; a boat trip up Geikie Gorge; swimming in the nature spring water holes, attending the community prayer meeting under the stars, and various talks from the elders of the community about the history and culture of the Wangkatjungka people.
A very notable experience was the invitation onto the land of Claude, one of the elders, to witness his families sacred sights and the artwork, painted by his ancestors, on the cave walls. As the first white people to be invited to witness these sites, hear the stories, and be treated with kangaroo tail and damper, it was very enriching and humbling experience.
The team of Year 11 and 12 students from Swan have come home with a new appreciation of Aboriginal people and culture, and have had some amazing encounters which will be etched in their memories for years to come.
“Not only did we experience the raw and natural beauty of the land but you get to experience the culture that is around us every day and we got to meet amazing and inspiring people who have gone through so much and have so many reasons to be angry and closed of people yet they still welcomed us with open arms.
The kids we met were so beautiful in so many ways and I really think that each kid connected with at least one person each in our team. There was one day where we got to go into the community, and we were walking along and all of a sudden all you hear is the kid's feet hitting the ground and their excited yells as they run towards us... honestly, it was such an amazing experience.
We all came back changed, I for one learned to appreciate the small things and our country more.“ - Chloe D
“The school and the community of Wangkatjungka were extremly welcoming and did a lot to make sure our trip was enjoyable for us and also the children we were helping. We were very grateful that Mr Josh Butler welcomed us into his school and were able to teach the students and work with them through various activities, many of which were celebrating NAIDOC week. We were also welcomed by Angus, an elder in the community who gave us a brief history of the land and the culture of the community.
Getting to know the kids was a huge highlight for me. All of them were extremely shy to start off but after not too long were following us around everywhere. We were very privileged to meet a guy named Claude that lived just down the road in a very small community of about two houses known as ‘the block’. Mr Claude welcomed us onto his property about a 10-15 minute drive through another small community near mimbi caves. We were extremely blessed to be able to visit his land as only family and close friends were welcomed there. While we were there he showed us the local springs and shared some history of his ancestors and where they used to live on the property.
The biggest highlight for me on that day was the caves. Inside the caves there were fantastic traditional cave paintings which no white people have ever seen before, Mr Claude remarked to some of us that because of us helping the kids and him showing us the caves, that today the black man and the white man are equal. This statement showed how lucky we were to be able to do this trip at all, being the first school in a very long time to help and actually stick around really impacted the community and certainly impacted all of us on the trip as well. I know that if the trip runs again next year I will be without a doubt signing up to go and I encourage everyone to consider it.” - Ethan U