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Innovative Cultural Camp for Aboriginal Youth a Success

Thirty-three Aboriginal kids from the Northern, Western, Hunter New England and Sydney Districts of New South Wales immersed themselves in traditional art and customs at the inaugural Pathfinders Cultural Camp.

Not-for-profit and Out-of-Home Care (OoHC) provider, Pathfinders, created the culture camp to address the loss of transmission of cultural knowledge from generation to generation for Aboriginal children and young people in care.

From cooking kangaroo stew and damper to participating in separate women’s and men’s business, the kids spent their last week of school holidays at The Willows in Glen Innes, Indigenous protected land, reviving traditions and engaging in their Aboriginal culture.

The kids who attended ranged from 8 years to 16 years old and came from a mix of foster care and residential care backgrounds. Five sets of siblings and families reunited and enjoyed the engaging activities with each other as well as with Pathfinders’ staff and Elders.

Conversations during the “Who’s your mob?” activity and during country, language and totem discussions resulted in some of the children realising they had relatives at the camp they hadn’t met before.

A teenage girl who attended the camp said she enjoyed spending time with family members while learning more about her culture.

“I don’t usually get to spend time with my extended family, but I had this week to do so during breaks and activities,” she said.  “I enjoyed getting to know the Elders, too, because they know my family and told stories about our culture.”

As a group, everyone participated in the opening smoking ceremony where they painted with ochre; they listened to stories from the Elders and actively participated in the bush walk and site appreciation; they examined Aboriginal artefacts and were shown how to make coolamons. In addition to culturally based activities, the children participated in swimming, kayaking, football and telling stories around the camp fire.

Sally McLennan, Senior Manager of Out-of-Home Care, said there were special moments throughout the camp that showed the true power of the culturally based conversations and activities.

“The girls yarned for two hours in a women’s circle with adults and Elders, and there were children who opened up and disclosed their experiences as a result of that safe space and discussion,” she said.

“Some of these girls have never had that — They’ve never had a mum or aunt to talk to them, and it was the first time they were able to explore womanhood from a beautiful, cultural perspective.”

McLennan said their next step is to go back to the kids for feedback to inform on how to run the next Pathfinders Cultural Camp, which they’re hoping to launch in the near future.

Pathfinders is a leading not for profit supporting disadvantaged children and families in the New England, North West and Mid North Coast regions. Every week we provide hundreds of families with the help they need to get back on their feet.

Media inquires: Noelia Trujillo noeliat@pathfinders.ngo or 0429371489

Cultural Camp 3