Country connections

The Welcome to My Country camp brought together 16 young people from across Australia to showcase their cultural and community strengths and to talk about what makes them proud of who they are and where they're from.

As the sun beat down everyone was working up a sweat. It wasn't easy work, digging deep into the hot sand, collecting firewood, burning the kangaroo tail in the hot flames and scraping off the hair until it was ready to cook in the sandy hole.

Despite the sweltering conditions, the enthusiasm from the group of 16 young people didn't waver. For most it was their first time cooking a roo tail and while some squirmed as they held the tail, they all gave it go.

The exercise was more than just about cooking lunch. They were team building, confidence building, sharing stories about themselves, about their own cultures, their traditional foods and ways of gathering and cooking it. There were also some clear leaders emerging as the morning wore on.

"To see all these tribes come together and act as one, we know us Aboriginal people have got a chance."
Uncle Neville Poelina
Udialla Springs on the Fitzroy River, 200 kilometres from Broome, provided the backdrop for the group of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous people. Red Cross brought them together from Barcaldine in Queensland, Daly River in the Northern Territory and Broome in Western Australia.

Toby Dancey, Red Cross worker from Barcaldine, says he was impressed with everyone that morning.

"To see them jump in and do those roo tails. I thought a lot of these kids wouldn't be into that, but just goes to show when you have a good teacher and everyone else is involved, they never stood back."
That teacher is Uncle Neville Poelina, a Nyikina man and Traditional Owner at Udialla Springs, 200 kilometres from Broome.

"I sit here all my life waiting for these sort of things to happen. I maintain our part of the river to give these young people an opportunity. To see all these tribes come together and act as one. We know us Aboriginal people have got a chance," he says.

Loretta Bin Omar, Kimberly Red Cross Regional Manager and Traditional Owner, says the camp provided the young people a place to be proud, to feel safe and to learn.

"When I first heard about it I thought that's exactly what they need, connection to country. To learn about other people's country from our Elders like Uncle Neville and learn to respect each other's cultures," she says.

"To get to know each other and be a bit more supportive of each other instead of I come from here and there. We are all Aboriginal people."

At the end of the camp, the young participants shared their appreciation of being on Uncle Neville's country, learning from him and each other.

Norma from Broome: "Thank you Neville and Jo for letting us stay in your country, making us feel at home and sharing your knowledge with us all. I really appreciated it. Now each and every one of us that came on camp will go home with more knowledge and confidence than we first came to camp."

Neil from Daly River: "It's been great yarning to other people and learning about their culture and what do they do different to Daly River. It's way different than the NT."

Kerryann from Barcaldine: "Thank you Uncle and Aunty for letting me stay in your beautiful country and thank you Simeon and Angelina for sharing your land with us. Thanks to all of you what I will take back with me is some really amazing memories that I will never forget."

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