By Theresia Titus
Seventeen students, along with two teachers from Nagle Catholic College (NCC) spent almost a week with Parnngurr Aboriginal Community (Cotton Creek) in Newman, Western Australia.
Nagle Catholic College Aboriginal Liaison Officer Micelle Shiosaki told The eRecord the immersion was important for students to learn about Aboriginal culture, how Aboriginal people look after the land, educate their children and keep their culture alive.
Departing on Friday 22 June, the group stayed at Murchison Downs, Meekatharra on their first night and then at a cattle station on Balfour Downs Rd, 132km north-east of Newman on the second night before arriving at Cotton Creek on the morning of Sunday 24 June.
The students were greeted by local children upon arrival and broke the ice with a basketball game.
Elder Jimmy Williams, Founder of Parngurr Community and School, greeted Nagle Catholic College students on the following Monday.
“Mr Williams welcomed us to the community with open arms, he also explained places we were allowed to explore and places that were forbidden,” Mrs Shiosaki said.
“He opened up the floor for a Q&A and was very welcoming to us to be in his community, and students would all meet at the [Parngurr Community] school and play basketball with local kids before the bell, then split into groups and do their jobs for the morning.”
Students were divided into three groups to work in the community, the school, and the general store community.
The work involved the students doing the rubbish run for the houses, cleaning the yard of a community member who had recently lost a parent.
“The local kids also showed the Nagle students around their community explaining sacred places they have and where they can and can’t walk,” Mrs Shiosaki said.
“Students would explore the community often stopping to have a chat to the elders and locals as they were walking by.”
On the final morning, Nagle students packed up and met the local kids at the school area, and there were tears shed as some students had formed a special bond with the community kids.
Mrs Shiosaki said the students’ feedback was positive, having their perspective on Aboriginal people and culture changed.
“The most important lesson was for students to have a better understanding of Aboriginal culture, respect for Aboriginal people and to erase the stereotypes which are common in their lives,” Mrs Shiosaki added.
“Some students wish to return to the community with their families, for a visit.
“I am hopeful that this Immersion will become a regular, yearly event,” she concluded.