In August of this year, two St Columba Anglican School staff, Indigenous Liaison Coordinator Mr Chris Tejcek, and Year Patron and Secondary Teacher Mrs Sarah Wallace, were offered the rare opportunity to participate in a Cultural Immersion Program sponsored by the Association of Independent Schools NSW (AISNSW) and Culture College (supported by the LJ Hooker Foundation).
The Cultural Immersion Program is designed to provide educators with a unique experience of living on country with the Yolŋu (Yolngu) people in order to build a deeper intercultural understanding that they can share with their students and school communities.
Our educators arrived in Gulkula, on Gumatj country, in North-East Arnhem Land, before undertaking three intensive days in the Nyinyikay Homeland—a significantly isolated area of Australia, at least 5 hours of remote 4WD driving away from the nearest centre and completely cut off for half the year due to the wet season.
During the time spent in these areas, Chris and Sarah were given the opportunity to learn the language, understand traditional connections to Country and listen to Traditional Owners and knowledge keepers share their unique understandings of the land, waterways and sky.
On return from this valuable experience, Indigenous Liaison Coordinator Mr Chris Tejcek reflected on how deeply affected he was by this journey and described it as “one of the most profound and life-affirming experiences of his life”.
Mr Tejcek remarked that the local population of between 10 and 15 people (many of whom were elderly) had very few useful tools to help in their everyday life. Upon his return, he decided to seek donations of useful items that could be sent to this community. Bunnings Port Macquarie offered a range of items, such as hand saws, small axes and power tools, including rotary tools to help with their artwork. Anaconda Port Macquarie donated fishing equipment, including hand reels, rods and accessories.
Mr Tejcek had also been in contact with the Sydney Swans regarding their newly created First Nations Academy located in Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour, which aims to develop the AFL knowledge and skills of Indigenous youth as well as offer mental health and cultural workshops. Upon hearing of Mr Tejcek’s project, the Sydney Swans added a variety of AFL and sports equipment to the donations.
All that was left now was to get these packages delivered to the remote far north community, which would be a costly exercise. This is when Michael Wynter, general manager of local Port Macquarie courier company Aramex, offered to deliver these packages to the Nyinyikay region for free, allowing these valuable donations to reach their destination.
This positive impact was born from the significant generosity of these local companies and the vision of an educator who was forever changed by the opportunity to learn more about the culturally-rich First Nations communities in our country. St Columba Anglican School hopes these relationships will continue to provide opportunities for learning and connecting for many years to come.