The Verity Immersion was an incredibly rich and soulful experience, one in which we were able to experience and capture the essence of Arnhem Land. From the very first day, it was clear that experience is the crux of all learning. From the straight onto deep red, dirt track roads to the middle of Kakadu National Forest or to living on the most peaceful beach in Australia, there was no time that anyone felt underwhelmed. Some of us had never really spoken to one another before. However, the connections between every girl became stronger as days grew by, and there was a true sense of authenticity, and kindness between us all.
Nhulunbuy in East Arnhem Land was a different type of place altogether. The close-knit community values were evident from the moment we arrived. We were outsiders for the first time, and it was surreal to see the interaction between the miners (of Rio Tinto) and the local Aboriginal community. There was a clear understanding between both parties, a sort of peace between them that was foreign to us. This sense of togetherness inspired us and set the basis for our open mindedness to travel into Bukudal Homeland. The Homeland of Bukudal was beyond words. The place itself was true natural beauty, with sparkling waters and long stretches of silk sand, home to shells of all colours. The people captured this beauty in every moment through their big hearts, minds, and commitment to teach us as much as possible. The Immersion would not have been as outstanding as it was without them, nor the teachers or the Culture College staff.
The core aspect of this immersion was our stay in the Bukudal homeland for five days. During this time, we had the rare opportunity to learn first-hand about the Yolngu people, the traditional people of the land. On the first day, each of us received an Indigenous name based on things we found at the beach such as shells or coral. After this, a skin name, determined by whether your name was Dhuwa or Yirritja. For me, this was a very special moment signifying the community’s open nature and their willingness to welcome us into their homeland. Each day, we had lessons on the Yolngu culture, learning how to say phrases such as What’s your name? or How are you? which we gradually incorporated into our conversations. Our new ability to communicate in their language was such a unique and memorable experience – being truly able to interact with the community in their language and integrate with the nature of the culture.
Another great experience was the free time. Frequently we were able to play games with the children in the homeland, who were always ready to play. Whether it be an actual sport, throwing a ball around or doing each other’s hair- there was always something we could play. In conjunction with this, opportunities to participate in lessons where we beaded our own necklaces, earrings and other pieces using shells found on the beach. Along with this, painting shells using traditional colours was both a relaxing and educational experience. The elders were always ready to help us or provide encouragement, making the activities far easier and more enjoyable for everyone.
I think one of the absolute highlights of our stay at the homeland were the dancing nights. On the last two nights, the community invited us to participate in some of their traditional dances. It was just a fun and happy experience capturing the community’s inclusiveness – making us feel welcome and part of the homeland and Bukudal family. It was also a great first-hand insight into traditional Indigenous dance and its meaning for the people.
Words: Loreto Kirribilli Year 11 Students, Temaeva Legeay-Hill & Sophie Chiswell