Before the holidays, I spoke of my intentions to travel to Halls Creek (WA) with Reverend Rich. Our purpose was to spend time with our students from this area; to meet and connect with their families and local organisations regarding an ongoing education program; and to learn about Aboriginal Culture in the East Kimberley region.
I am pleased to say we achieved our aims and the trip was a great success. While I thoroughly enjoyed visiting the Kimberley for the first time, it was the people we met and the experiences we shared that defined our trip. It was great to spend time with our boys in their local community and meet some of their friends and family. Our students and their families welcomed us; taught us about Kitja and Jaru culture; and showed us their amazing country of contrasts and beauty. Dean Mosquito, Irving’s father, took Reverend Rich and I out into the bush to see some amazing places that are of significance to the Kitja people from Warmum. We also learnt about bush tucker and bush medicine.
As a School we want to develop a sustainable relationship with the people of the East Kimberley and, as part of that relationship, offer an ongoing educational pathway for students. This is a challenging task and heavily reliant on personalities and relationships. It is made more difficult by the isolated nature of the region and our distance from it. The program would complement and support the pathways that we are currently providing for our Gunai Kurnai students.
A starting point for this ambition is to ensure that we understand our purpose and reason for bringing students all the way from the Kimberley to Gippsland. We then need to develop relationships with different organisations in the region who can assist. Rev Rich and I met with Board members from the Wunan organisation in Kununurra. Wunan is a not for profit organisation run by Aboriginal people to support local Aboriginal people in the Kimberley region. Their goal is to improve the lives of Aboriginal people in the East Kimberley by driving sustainable change for the future. At our meeting, my first request was for them to help us as a school understand and be clear about our purpose for developing this program. Their answer came in the form of a video on their website. I encourage our families to view this video on their website at http://wunan.org.au. It is called ‘swimming the river.’
Reverend Rich and Ms Henry have been working on our School’s Reconciliation Action Plan. They plan to incorporate aspects of our commitment to the local Gunai Kurnai people, the Kitja and Jira people from the East Kimberley and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders from across Australia. I know that they are excited about working on this project and will provide updates and information as we proceed.
I feel blessed to have had this experience; to have spent time with the wonderful people of this region. I am hopeful of returning and continuing to develop these relationships, and of further developing my knowledge and understanding of culture and country.
A photo of Mr Baker with Junior Bradshaw in the East Kimberley region