The Indigenous Students Leadership Camp is always a highlight at the start of each school year. Having spent most of our time on or in the water on our last camp, this time we went underground. Naracoorte in the South East was our destination, where we embarked on our adventure caving experience.
Old scholar Brenz Saunders again joined the IE@P group as a valued mentor, and we enjoyed Evan Shillabeer’s company as well this year.
The camp is designed to welcome and get to know new IE@P students, build and strengthen relationships and our connection as a group, develop leadership and communication skills, reflect upon our individual and group directions for this year and beyond, and have fun too.
Paintballing was a good starting point! We stopped at Monarto and donned the regulation outfit for the weekend’s activities—khaki overalls and hard hat—for a couple of quick rounds of paintballing. Some warriors had prior experience and impressive accuracy, while others quickly resembled a Jackson Pollock canvas.
The bus journey to Naracoorte allowed everyone to recharge before part one of our caving experience. On arrival at the Naracoorte Caves National Park, listed as a World Heritage site in 1994, we again donned our hard hats, this time fitted with head torches, for our introduction to adventure caving. This was our test to see if we would manage the 3-hour session the next day. It certainly challenged us as we immediately found ourselves deep underground crawling through seemingly impossible spaces. Through impressive teamwork and a lot of laughter we discovered that it was, in fact, possible to manoeuvre our bodies through these highly unlikely places.
With a taste of what lay ahead, the next morning we travelled a fair distance along dirt tracks to reach a hole in the ground that was the entrance to Fox Cave. Slightly overgrown and almost hidden by the scrub, the entrance was revealed by our expert guides and we began our descent. This was by far the most challenging part of the experience as we had to crawl sideways and downwards for a fair way, sandwiched in a narrow gap between the rocks. With the constant encouragement and support of their peers the group crawled 20 metres underground. Our efforts were rewarded when the area opened up into spectacular, cavernous underground rooms.
Kanisha Wills (Yr 10) shares her thoughts about caving … Adventure caving was a really fantastic experience. It was a great work-out and it was fun to learn about the history of the caves. The caves were made out of limestone, with fresh water in the walls from an ancient sea. When we directed our torches onto the limestone, we could see it turn red with little drops of water running down. I tasted some of the fresh water and it was delicious! The first cave we went into, Stick Tomato, was the introductory cave, and then we went adventure caving in Fox Cave. Unlike the wet cave, it was really hot. We ventured into two main parts of the cave, The Madonna Chamber, which was fun to climb down into and opened up into a large area, and another that had long tree roots flowing from the ceiling. This chamber was very pretty and had a small mountain of pitch black sand from the ceiling. Overall, adventure caving was a really amazing experience and we all had a fantastic time!
After our introductory caving session on Saturday we spent some time with Indigenous elder Doug Nicholls on Bindjali land. Doug spoke to us about his family background, the local area and its seasons, bush food and animals. He demonstrated how to generate fire, played the yidaki (as also did Markell Stapleton (Yr 11)), and showed us how to throw a boomerang. The challenge was set to catch a boomerang and this occupied us for quite some time, with Jamie Fullston (Yr 10) winning the contest despite fierce competition. A cleansing ceremony was a powerful conclusion to this important and entertaining lesson in a beautiful setting.
After a lovely dinner in Naracoorte we gathered at our farmhouse accommodation for a discussion about our individual and group directions for the short term and into the future. The students discussed ideas for Indigenous Education at Pembroke and reflected upon our Reconciliation Action Plan, which is currently in draft form. We concluded the evening with the now customary birthday cake and UNO tournament.
After a very active, rewarding and unifying leadership camp we returned to Adelaide feeling very positive about the year ahead and the future for Indigenous Education at Pembroke.
Indigenous Student Coordinator