Entry 1: Out of Our Comfort Zones

It will be the first archaeology field experience, the first camping trip longer than 3 days, the first time I have been to the Northern Territory and the first time experiencing an Indigenous community firsthand.

What do I expect from the community field school? Well, to be completely honest I am not really sure. This will be a period of many first-time experiences for me. It will be the first archaeology field experience, the first camping trip longer than 3 days, the first time I have been to the Northern Territory and the first time experiencing an Indigenous community firsthand.

Growing up in a city on the east coast of NSW, both the landscape and culture I will experience up here will not be like my everyday life. As I have said, I don’t know what to expect. All I know is that I will be out of my comfort zone and will experience a wealth of new things. However, I am exited for these new experiences.

In relation to archaeology specifically, I understand that the field work at the community field school varies from year to year. Most recently, I have read of the work done to survey and record gravesites at Barunga. In addition, I know there is a wealth of rock art sites in the area too. Whatever we end up working on, I am looking forward to the opportunity to obtain practical field experience.

Entry 2: Experiences and Challenges

We did not know exactly what each project would be before arriving, as it is based upon what the community wants us to complete for them. Access to certain places or information was also not guaranteed, as permission is always required.

Living within the Barunga community these past few days has been amazingly insightful. In my previous post I explained that I had no idea about what to expect, but now I feel like I have a grasp on the core aspects of this field school. First and foremost, this is community archaeology, and as its name implies it is community driven. The first couple of days I struggled with no set times, or no clear idea of what we were going to be doing before each day. But this itself is a product of the community driven focus of the field school. We did not know exactly what each project would be before arriving, as it is based upon what the community wants us to complete for them. Access to certain places or information was also not guaranteed, as permission is always required. Thankfully, the local people have been very open and welcoming to us.

Another key part of the field school is the skin system. I was named Gammarang, and from this I have brothers, sisters, uncles and mothers all from this skin system. It is amazingly complex, and I am only seeing the surface of it during my short time here. So far, it has been a harder concept to understand than any of the traditional archaeology methods that I have practiced on the field school.

Entry 3: Take Away Thoughts

I have also come to understand the perspective of Indigenous people in Australia a little bit more than I did before coming here. Living within the community has shattered the pre conceived thoughts that I have noticed within society.

It’s the last morning of the field school. I’m up the earliest I have been since arriving here. To be honest, I think it’s because I’m a bit sad to realise we are leaving already. I have really enjoyed staying here at Barunga. The community has been welcoming, especially after we have all gotten to know each other a little better. They have also been amazingly forthcoming with sharing knowledge with us. It is something I am very appreciate of, as I have learnt during my time here how much value is placed on the knowledge passed down from past generations. This knowledge includes the highly complicated skin system, interpretation of rock art in the area and knowledge about sacred sites, such as the grave sites that we worked on for the community.

In addition to this, I have also come to understand the perspective of Indigenous people in Australia a little bit more than I did before coming here. Living within the community has shattered the pre conceived thoughts that I have noticed within society. In addition, another thing that I will take away from this trip is that the people here know what they want and need. They are so often told what they need or not even consulted at all; as is the case with the unwanted fence around the school at Barunga. Going forward there is no doubt in my mind that the elders of the community should be consulted on every decision made in their land.

For the sake of brevity, I only have one more thing to add. Thank you to the staff members and other participants of the field school, you all made it an amazing experience. I would also like to sincerely thank the local community members that allowed me to stay here and experience both their life and their culture.