Entry 1: Out of Our Comfort Zones

I am hoping to be immersed in the culture and learn from the community…

Very soon I will be arriving at Barunga! I have wanted to visit Barunga since starting my undergraduate degree at Flinders University in 2015. I am really looking forward to meeting the people, and sharing daily life with them on Country for the week.

I am hoping to be immersed in the culture and learn from the community about the social systems in operation, and how they influence the daily lives of the people at Barunga. I am expecting to gain practical experience using the ethical protocols fundamental to working with Aboriginal peoples, while recognising the unique needs that are specific to the Barunga community; what is important to community members, and how, under their guidance, I can best assist them with achieving positive outcomes. I am also expecting to observe, learn and participate in the processes used by archaeologists to collaborate with Indigenous community members and anthropologists when conducting archaeology, and to experience using the archaeological field methods involved with Indigenous archaeology.

I am excited to be working on the art project, but am not sure what to expect, and do hope I get to see and learn about rock art during the field trip. I am also looking forward to working with and learning from the archaeologists and anthropologist working with the Barunga community, and from my peers. I love nature and feel privileged to be spending time on Country with the Barunga community. I will not be surprised if I love the experience!


Entry 2: Experiences and Challenges

Learning the rules and protocols has been interesting.

Every day at Barunga has been jam packed with new experiences. Meeting the Traditional Owners (TOs), Custodians and Elders, and their relatives and friends, and dining with them around the camp fire. The kid’s disco at the sheltered outdoor basketball court, the cemetery visit, the rock art site visit, the White Cockatoo dance performance at the gallery in Katherine, dinner at the Katherine RSL club. Church on Sunday, Manyallaluk (Eva Valley) visit to meet with local artists Carol and Richard and learn about basket weaving and painting. It has been non-stop! Night time has also been eventful with loud music (all night long on our first night), buffalo calls, donkey calls, dogs barking and fighting, humans yelling and snoring, firecracker explosions and more.

I am enjoying my time at Barunga, despite experiencing mixed emotions. Highs and lows, good days and bad days. I have been overwhelmed at times trying to balance the expectations of the community, my peers, and tutors, the assessment criteria, the domestic duties around camp as well as my own personal expectations. My biggest challenge has been with documenting everything in my journal as I am experiencing it, as I want to fully engage with the experiences as they occur with the Barunga community, country, my peers and my tutors. There is so much to absorb and experience at Barunga. Learning the rules and protocols has been interesting. It has felt strange not being able to just walk off and explore on my own. I have learnt that it is important to consult with Barunga community members before I take off as there are areas that should not be entered. Like all cultures, Barunga has rules that I must learn if I am to live within the community.


Entry 3: Take Away Thoughts

I learnt that relationship building with community members takes time and is key to the success of community archaeology.

I can’t believe the field school is over already – it went by so quickly! I am very grateful for the time I had at Barunga, but it was rushed at the end and I wished it went for longer. I felt that our cooking and cleaning duties, while necessary, took time away from socialising with community members, and I would have liked more time to just sit and listen and take things in. The camp dinners were special with everyone coming together, and it was lovely spending time with the children – dinner on the last night was not the same with many of the community members absent.

My experiences at the field school showed that archaeology, as well as leading to a greater understanding of the past, can be used to benefit communities and to foster reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians. I learnt that relationship building with community members takes time and is key to the success of community archaeology. Although it feels like I experienced just a snapshot of life at Barunga and still have much to learn, I now have a much better understanding of the consultation process involved in working within an Aboriginal community.

It is a privilege to have participated in the field school and experience life at Barunga. I was especially fortunate, working on the art project, to be out on country with traditional weaver, Carol Pamkal, sourcing colour to be used to dye the pandanas leaves and grasses for weaving.