Entry 1: Out of Our Comfort Zones

Being a Darug man and studying archaeology at university I am directing my studies towards indigenous identification of rock art sites and the stories of the land to understand not only my past but that of my countrymen.

One week to go until I board a plane for Darwin to commence a week I have been looking forward too for a few months now; that is, living with an Aboriginal community outside of Katherine. Being a Darug man and studying archaeology at university I am directing my studies towards indigenous identification of rock art sites and the stories of the land to understand not only my past but that of my countrymen. With that in mind learning from a different mob their ways, history, stories and hopefully culture excites me and I am eager to absorb all that I can learn in the short time I get to be there.

Yet as per our tradition, we don’t just take we give as much as we can. I have asked my daughters primary school to help with donations of clothing for the community. This I hope will be successful posted so that the children and adults can benefit from the clothing donated. My gift to a community of people who are willing to open their arms to embrace strangers and taken them into their lives, exposing us to them. Their gift to us is the sharing of knowledge they have, whilst mine is only material items, I hope it is enough.

Entry 2: Experiences and Challenges

…going to the Barunga grave yard made my heart sadden because of the amount of young people sleeping there.

Since being in Barunga community it has been a warm and welcoming feeling, even having the difficult task to work on prisons now seems to have become easier with the assistance of Isaac. Yet today, Tuesday 9 July 2019 going to the Barunga grave yard made my heart sadden because of the amount of young people sleeping there.  Being shown Werenbun’s grave yard did not impact as much as it is so much smaller and all 7 laying there have names, Barunga has more unmarked graves than those that are named.

Each day is a new beginning, learning from the people that come to our camp and trying to teach them, listening to what they say and not judging anything about them.  Yet the problem was that signs on the road are impossible to miss, whether erected by community or the Government I do not know, but seeing the cartoon style woman with child crossing the road sign made me outraged that this is something that someone considered either the people look like, or relate too.

In the evening we sit with community and talk, tonight I sat with Guy, my skin father and showed him photographs of the day.  He told me that he made the concrete headstones that were in the graveyard and that there are a lot of young people resting there now.  He further told me that he was a jack of all trades and when we got to the photographs of the afternoon he told me about what I was initially told was an old farm house, that it was in fact the old store, and the building next to it was also part of it.  He told me that he helped to build the building in the 1960’s using a ‘simernvan’ machine to make mud, gravel and concrete bricks.  I was shown these bricks at the community and did a rough drawing in the 2 minutes I had before leaving.

Being honoured by Guy even more he told me that there was a ‘simernvan’ machine up river in sacred country and he would be happy to take me there.  I felt that he accepted me and this especially since Isaac spoke with him about the project and that he was willing to speak about his experiences and also his sons willingness to speak.

I don’t think a week is going to be enough, not only to do the project, but also to absorb all the information that is being provided to me by the community.

Entry 3: Take Away Thoughts

I look at this community and whole heartedly have accepted my skin name and wish so very much my daughter could have come and enjoyed the week as much as I have.

Last day to do our community project and after several hours in front of a computer, downloading pictures it is finally done, something for the children to hopefully keep them on the straight and narrow.  Isaac and I went to Maranboy (Police station) so that I could see and photographs the old lock up.  Interesting place, a rectangular box about 3.5m x 2.5m and 3m high at it’s peak.  An iron ring was concreted to the ground where chains would be fed to chain prisoners to the seats.  No toilet, water facilities and the ventilation consisted of four small ground level windows with iron bars set in and a curved roof raised above the walls.  Graffiti on the door gave the names and days in various gaols and two had dates dating back to 1978.

The overall experience at Barunga has been great, though I wish now it was longer, there is so very much to learn, to teach and to do that I hope that what I got out of the week is what the community received in return.

I look at this community and whole heartedly have accepted my skin name and wish so very much my daughter could have come and enjoyed the week as much as I have.  I came into this community not knowing what to expect, what expectations there were on me but now I want, no need to come back to finish what has been started and want to enjoy every day here.

It is with sadness in my heart that I have to say goodbye, but I know am aware that I will hopefully be welcomed back into the arms of my family.

Thank you Claire and Jacko for a great educational week, something that I would otherwise never have done.