Spotlight On: Arnhem Land Immersion 2023

10 November 2023


This article first appeared in Queenwood Weekly News on Friday 10 November 2023.

Our recent Arnhem Land immersion, in the final week of the school holidays, was a life-changing adventure. With school camp and yearly exams waiting for us on our return, we were all a bit reluctant to take on this challenge. We are so deeply thankful we embraced this opportunity because we had no way of knowing how much we would grow, learn, connect, and share, on this unique trip that we will hold close to our hearts forever.

While in Nyinyikay we learned about the culture of the Yolŋu people, and an integral part of the learning was knowing how to be part of a community. 
Almost every afternoon and early evening, we would run down onto the beach on the homeland at Nyinyikay and with the Yolŋu children we’d play games, have running races and collect hundreds of hermit crabs. We got to know people who we normally wouldn’t have connected with either within our School or beyond. Our shared experiences created opportunities to form stronger bonds every day until all we felt was how much we enjoyed doing the same things.

At Nyinyikay, one of our main focuses was to learn.
The day we arrived, we went on a knowledge walk with Yolŋu custodian Marcus Lacey and his mob who lived there. Walking down a path of red rock, the trees spread out over our heads and held us as if we were in the arms of a mother. The land seemed alive in Nyinyikay. It became our carer, protector, and teacher as we began to learn how to read the signs. Marcus showed us a pinkish flower growing on a tree, initially unnoticed by our eyes. He told us that when this flower grew, it was the season to hunt stingrays. Nancy, one of the Elders, showed us a bark that would make the fish rise out of the water by sucking up all the oxygen.

At Nyinyikay: we were immersed in culture, through our connection to the people and land. The patience and generosity with which we were treated by the whole community was so welcoming. We felt deeply cared for and nurtured. On our final day, we asked to join a Bäpurru (funeral) for one of the Nyinyikay women who had recently passed. We were nervous but this passed as we saw the welcoming faces of the Nyinyikay people as we arrived. We were representing our Queenwood community as the Elder who passed had taught our mob to weave on previous trips. Painted with sacred ochre and ceremonial garments, people sang and danced for hours. The full ceremony would take up to three weeks.

The greatest gift we received while at the Homeland, was the generosity from everyone we met.
We were taught traditional sacred practices with a stoic patience that was unfathomable to us, and when our ability to weave a basket, or dig roots from the ground fell embarrassingly short, we weren’t mocked or turned away, but instead set back on the correct path with a firm, supportive nudge. The approach of the Yolŋu people to sharing knowledge was so entirely different from the system of teaching that we were used to, coming back has been a little disorientating. In Arnhem Land our learning was reliant on a relationship being formed between us, our teachers, and our lessons that were embedded in cultural practice and shared contribution.

Thank you to our parents, our school and our teachers, Ms Tamberlin and Mrs Harrison who made this cultural immersion possible. Decades on from now, we’re still going to be chatting your ears off about the Arnhem Land trip. So, what are you waiting for? Parents, students, teachers, get involved! Next year, take the chance and join the next Arnhem Land trip. This is a once in a lifetime chance, and we are so lucky to have this opportunity at Queenwood.