Sadly my placement at Djarragun College in Cairns, Australia is drawing to a close. This is a reflection on the second half of the year at my placement. I hope you all enjoy and if anyone has any questions about the placement, volunteering etc, feel free to message me on here or on Facebook or by email: email@example.com
The second half of my placement started by saying goodbye to 5 other volunteers from Germany and welcoming 4 new volunteers, Nils from Germany, Sasha from Canada, Phillipa (Pip) from Newcastle (Australia) and Laura from Melbourne. It was sad saying goodbye to the German volunteers, because we all became like a family living together, eating together and sharing our whole experience together. However, it was exciting having a new group of people and building new friendships and having new experiences together.
Me and Sarah-Louise, who have both been at our placement since January, 2013 flew down to Melbourne to help out at the Orientation for the International volunteers coming to Australia. The orientation was great, meeting the Lattitude Australia staff again and making new friends. It was weird though, seeing all these new excited faces, and knowing that’s what we must’ve looked like back in January.
As the orientation drew to a close, it meant departing Melbourne and flying back to Cairns with 3 of the 4 new volunteers, but we was met at Cairns Airport by the final new volunteer. I personally couldn’t wait to show the new guys around the campus and introduce them to the amazing staff and especially the students of Djarragun College. Some of them even got stuck in straight away, playing volleyball with some students who had us all laughing!! We even planned that weekend to play volleyball every weekend or so with each-other, so one day we could get good enough before we go to play the students haha!!!
After 2-3 weeks of the new volunteers being at the placement, me and Sarah-louise was offered the chance to go up Cape York to Bamaga (an Aboriginal community at the very top of Australia – even making it to the ‘Most Northern Point of Australia’)! We went up with a small selection of students, along with Cape York AFL, who promote AFL all over the Cape. We travelled by Troopy’s by convoy all the way up, camping over half way at a place called Bramwell Station. From there it was another long drive to Bamaga, across the red dirt roads, which was just amazing!! The journey is one that I will never forget, as for the kids in Bamaga, they were GREAT!! One memory in particular I’ll always remember from this trip. Thus being, a big group of children were playing touch with each-other on the field and this one young boy was stood next to a little motorbike. So I noticed he was just watching the other kids play and approached him to have a talk, to see what his name was etc (unfortunately I can’t remember his name), he told me about himself and I asked him how come he wasn’t playing with the other kids, to which he replied “I’m watching that boy over there’s bike for him’. To which I told him to go and ask this boy if he’ll let us (me and Sarah) watch his bike so this boy can join in. The look on his face on his way back was priceless! The biggest and most thankful smile ever!! Then off he ran to go and join in and it felt so good seeing him enjoying himself
From here on-wards I spent most of my time working in the Middle School area, because I’d started to develop strong trust with a lot of the middle school male students. This allowed for me to offer many of them advice and some-one to talk to, if and when they needed it, but most importantly it meant if they started to be disrespectful in class, I was in a position where they’d listen to me and start behaving and in most cases apologize to their teacher. This kids really grew on me and I see them all as little brothers now and I know they see me as their big brother, which I feel honored about.
On top of working a lot in the Middle School area, I also started working more around the boarding house, which has been great! It allows me to strengthen my rapport with the kids in Boarding, again allowing me to be able to give them advice and some-one to talk to. The first half of the year I struggled making a good rapport with a handful of kids in Boarding, however over the second half of the year I’ve managed to get talking to them more now and that I’m happy about. These kids really don’t just give you their respect on a plate, you truly have to earn it and work with the kids, not against the kids, a big thing I’ve learned being at this placement. If you want the students to respect and listen to you, then give them respect and listen to them.
During the school holidays a 4 of us volunteers went down to Sydney then across to Alice Springs, to do a 3 day 2 night tour of the OUTBACK!! I would recommend anyone coming to Australia to visit their, the culture, history and stories of the land are so fascinating and inspirational, it really is unbelievable. The sights of the places are just breathtaking, it’s like being in a whole new world, the tranquility and steadiness there, really does just blow you away. When you camp, you sleep in SWAGS, basically mini one-man tents (a mattress, sleeping bag and pillow in one), under the star-filled skies, with hardly any clouds or anything in the sky blocking your view. During our trip to the local supermarket in Alice Springs on our first evening there, we was stopped by an Aboriginal lady called Velma, who was sitting on a bench and called us over. We all looked at each-other and walked over to her. She had definitely been drinking, but that didn’t stop us offering out time to talk to her, and I’m so grateful we did. She introduced her self and was keen to find out our names and where we each came from. After this she started telling us stories about herself, her culture, where she lives and her family. She told us a story of Bush-monsters as hairy as King Kong, who live in the bushed throughout central Australia and along the road that connect it to Darwin, Adelaide etc. She told us whatever we do, sleep during the day and drive through the night (luckily we weren’t driving) and then went on to tell us the unfortunate story of how these Bush-monsters killed her 5 brothers as they were driving up to Adelaide. She went on to ask us if we can drive her to Adelaide, but we had to tell her we couldn’t drive, she looked so sad and we all felt so bad for not being able to help her, but still she continued to tell us stories and to talk to us. We told her about how we was going to visit the Uluru, Kings Canyon etc and she asked us not to climb the rock and to promise her we won’t. I remember her saying “Please don’t climb the rock, because I don’t want any of you to die, because you are my family now”. We was already aware of how sacred the Uluru is and the surrounding land and knew how disrespectful it would be to the Aboriginal people to climb it and so we promised her. Shortly after we went our separate ways, and she told us where we can visit her in the nearby bushes, to shout our her name and she’ll come and show us around etc. It’s experiences like these you really can’t put a value on!
I think the most rewarding part of my placement overall only happened in the last month/ month and a half of my placement. I was approached by our mentor to see if I’d mind working with a Year 12 student all day everyday for their last 4 weeks of school. This student was really far back in their work, and told by all the senior staff and a couple of the senior school staff that they have no chance of catching up. However, this didn’t stop us trying, working all day everyday like asked, we managed to get ALL of his assignments done and completed, with some A’s and B’s on some of them, which meant he GRADUATED YEAR 12!! This student is proof that you never should give up, no matter what anyone says. Yeah a lot of the time he thought he was going to fail and disappoint his family, but we kept going and I remember hearing after his last maths test, he walked into another class where another volunteer was, hand over his mouth, and was asked “how do you feel” and he replied “Proud, proud of myself!”. We then found out that although he graduated he wouldn’t be getting his Queensland Certificate of Education (QCE), and would have to come back for the last couple of weeks after graduation to complete another course. This he was prepared to do, however, on the night of the Year 12 formal, the head of Senior School came up and told me the schools managed to fix some stuff up and he no longer has to come back and he has his QCE!!! I felt so proud and thankful, truly felt like he was my son for that split moment,, but I truly do see him as a younger brother, such a good and respectful and thankful kid. I remember his parents thanking me that evening at the formal for getting him through and my response was “You should be proud of him, he done all the work, I just kept him on track. He’s a good kid and he’ll definitely go far”.
Although in particular helping the above Year 12 student Graduate, it’s been great over the whole year, helping so many of the Year 12′s with their work, checking over assignments for them, pointing them in the right direction etc etc. When they all stood up on graduation day, I was sat looking at the future generation and leaders of the Indigenous people, and I am so proud of each and everyone of them for what they have achieved. I know many of them have the talent and skills to go on to bigger and better things with their life, to escape community and everyone’s expectations of them, to do what they want and to make themselves proud. You’re each an inspiration and a role model to all the younger Indigenous youth.
I just really want to thank Lattitude for allowing me this opportunity to volunteer and to experience everything I have during my time in Australia. If it wasn’t for your organization I wouldn’t be the person I am now leaving my placement. I am more confident, outgoing, full of life, more wise and so much more. This whole experienced has helped give me stronger foundation and a new direction of what I want to do in the future. I now am determined to get a job doing Youth Support work before heading off to University in September next year. I’m still on track to study Psychology with Counseling, but now I know where I want to go after studying. I want to move to Australia, to work with Indigenous Youth, helping counsel them, helping them get into employment and just overall helping better their lives and futures, but most of all to help them realize their potential!
I also want to thank Djarragun College for allowing me to spend my whole year here. The whole placement has just been amazing, from the staff, to the students, to seeing the kids perform cultural dances and songs from their Islands and so much more. I want to thank each member of staff for being so welcoming and for becoming part of my extended family, I will remember each and everyone of you. I want to thank the students for helping me realize what life is all about and how to live and enjoy life. You have taught me that life isn’t about having the most money, or the best materialistic items or the best clothes, but life is about enjoying ourselves, having fun, doing what makes us happy, our friends and our family etc. I now have a new view on life, a much more positive one and that I am so thankful for. You have all touched my heart and I know each and everyone of you have the potential to change your life, the life of your people, the life of the generations still to come. Each one of you is so special. You are all my brothers and sisters, my family and I’ll remember each and everyone of you and our experiences together forever.
Another thank you I want to give is to all the volunteers I’ve been able to share my experiences with; Sarah-Louise, Thomas, Soren, Urte, Malte, Julia, Sasha, Pip, Laura and Nils. You have all bought your own different personalities, beliefs etc into my life and I will remember each and everyone of you and the great times we shared. We have seen so many places together in and around Cairns etc, we have experienced so much around the school and during out time living with one another. We have had our ups and downs – but it’s fair to say, mainly ups and so many laughs along the way. I wish each of you the best for the future, you’re all great people, who are capable of great and amazing things. Remember not to give up on anything, because you can achieve anything you want to and I know you all will go far!
I want to give a big thank you to our former mentor Morag, who was so welcoming to each and everyone of us, always offering us some-one to talk to if we ever needed it and just directing us in the right ways around the school and in our work. Not only were you such a great mentor on a work level, but you have also become our ‘Momma Morag’, our mum away from home. Your whole family and friends have made us feel so at home when we’ve been around your house or out with you and Trevor. On that note I want to also thank Trevor for all the laughs and advice he has given us all, a true true comedian!! I don’t think this experience would have been quite the same without you both here around the school, and around on the weekends etc. You both are such great special people, and I wish you both all the best and I know I’ll see you both one day, perhaps when I come back to Aus!