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Through Red Earth, the Cape York Immersion Program provides an opportunity for our Senior School students to make an impact in the precious communities, culture, and land. The journey to getting to Cape York is filled with fundraising activities, planning, and an understanding of how each student can play a role in connecting people with remote Indigenous homelands in a safe and meaningful way.

Red Earth

Red Earth is a driver of reconciliation 'by providing Traditional Owners in remote Australia the means to welcome and open the hearts of others to their country, culture and way of life'. With the aim of connecting students to remote Indigenous Homelands whilst creating economic opportunity and empowerment for the community.

Please see their website if you would like to read further about Red Earth and their mission.

All Night Awake Relay Fundraiser

The All Night Awake Relay fundraising activity was a fabulous team-building event for the Year 11 and Year 12 students and teachers who participated in the Red Earth Cape York Indigenous Immersion Programs this year. Collectively, the students enthusiastically travelled 1652kms (which was double their goal) and raised $8,876 for their Homeland Community Projects.

This was a huge effort and the School is most grateful to families, our wonderful broader community and the Ivanhoe Girls’ Grammar School Parent Association (IGGSPA) for their support and generosity. All funds raised went directly towards a Red Earth Community Project, which will be guided by the Traditional Owners of the Homelands students visited, and their vision for their own land. Our students brought their enthusiastic labour and resources to make these projects a reality during their visit.

Cape York Immersion Program

As part of the program run by Red Earth, our students embark on a variety of learning experiences and opportunities to interact with the community, connect with nature and learn about the rich Indigenous culture surrounding them.

'The connection between the people and Country in Cape York is a rich, complex web that must be experienced to be understood.'
Empowering the Coexistence of Cultures

Mietta - Year 12

Reflecting on times past empowers us to envision the trajectory of developing excellence in the future, and what this “excellence” will actually demand. As young people, we are driving forces for perpetual societal shifts towards a “future” grounded on inclusivity and equality.

The History of Australia is an abiding past. So, organizations like Red Earth find a crucial role in connecting people with remote Indigenous homelands in a safe and meaningful way, as we all learn to take accountability and actively reconcile.

Over the Easter break, 26 of us senior students were led by Red Earth as we crossed a bridge between our occidental world and the precious communities, culture, and land of Pannamuunji & Maramakka Country (in Cape York). To be so cordially welcomed onto private property by Elders and Traditional Owners, our hearts and minds were opened. Tim & Jerry were storytellers at heart, & both shared their profound knowledge of the bush and its natural resources/remedies - nature’s clothes pegs, dental bark, natural cancer fighters and aerogard etc.

The maternal Elaine taught us Guuguyimithirn, the language of the Thubbi people that cannot be preserved by any non-spoken mode. We all listened. Just as we all became mesmerized by the vibrancy of hues that coloured all the landscapes, engulfed in beaming rich greens. And though we entered these communities amidst their sacred Easter festivities, we felt accepted into intimate traditions; meeting & helping families tidy the grave sites of loved ones, learning traditional dances with the nephews of our hosts.

Notably, using the $8,876 raised from a 7.00pm-7.00am All Night Awake Relay school-based fundraiser, we launched a practical community project in Pannamuunji, building fencing for cattle on Tim & Elaine’s estate. In those 12 enduring hours the group collectively covered 1652km (running/cycling/walking), comparable to 2 round trips from Cairns to each homeland. I was reminded on this tiresome day of the challenges in providing certain materials/services to remote and rural areas. Weeding, digging, & cementing in the stifling humidity was taxing, but local creek swims distracted us with cool splashes and charming scenery.

Most poignantly from this uniquely emotional experience, we take home the personal anecdotes of our hospitable hosts, their lives, love stories, & opinions on reconciliation. Our memories of Panamuunji & Maaramaka are fleeting, but the sentiment repeatedly divulged to us across the homelands by First Nations People echoes still. We as future voices for the tyrannized hold the responsibility in our communities/government to listen, empower the coexistence of cultures, and always value the humanity of Indigenous Australians.

A Rich and Authentic Learning Experience

Ms Louisa Scerri - Director of Learning and Innovation

When I reflect on my own experience of education, I can clearly picture a relatively windowless square room, with wooden desks arranged in orderly rows, all facing the blackboard. At the front of the room was a teacher’s desk, strategically facing the students. I remember the routine clearly: we lined up outside the room, and the roll was taken as we walked in to sit at our designated seat – all in silence. And then the learning began. The teacher delivered knowledge to us from the front of the room, whilst we frantically copied down copious notes, desperate to do so before they were erased. Every now and then, a question would be fired at us which would be met by either a correct answer or a blubbering attempt to disguise our lack of understanding.

Despite, this rather grim description of education, I loved school and I loved learning The model suited me because I suited the model. Yet after spending some 30 years teaching and learning alongside young people, I can see so many flaws in the industrial model of education – albeit a ‘one size fits all model’.

Lucas and Claxton’s book titled ‘Expansive Education: Teaching Learners for the Real World’ (2013), although written some time ago, still resonates strongly with me. Purely and simply because it challenges educators to expand the experiences our students have and to recognise that learning can happen anywhere and everywhere. Indeed, the Australian General Capabilities outline the importance of providing young people with a broad and quality education that extends outside the boundaries of the classroom into the world.  Arguably, it is when students can see a connection between knowledge and application that deep learning occurs. The recent Red Earth Immersion Trip is a perfect example of real-life learning.

From the moment we arrived at Punamuunji Homeland the learning began – either through the conversations we had whilst sitting around a campfire listening to the raw, and at times confronting stories told by elders and traditional owners, or our enthusiastic attempt to learn basic Guuguyimithirn language, to building a boundary fence as part of the Community Project or enjoying a swim in the creek with the community children. Or as a by-product of our stay at the beautiful rainforest of the Maaramaka Homeland as we walked through the rainforest whilst Jerry shared his boundless knowledge of botany, or our attempts to learn the traditional eagle and kangaroo dance with Cyril and Naz. Each day was filled with learnings – learnings that were raw and real.

For the duration of the trip, Ms Williams, Ms Campbell, and I were constantly in awe of our girl’s willingness to learn and grow.  At times their wisdom astounded us. Although there were no traditional classrooms, we were all collectively immersed in rich and authentic learning- our knowledge was gained through our experience, an experience that was so much more than a ‘one size fits all model’. Each of us took away memories, jammed packed with learnings that we will take with us throughout our life. For me, the memory that tops all others is when our girls sang The Blessing as a thank you to Elaine, Tim, Irene and Jerry (the traditional owners of the land that we visited), as we sat around the campfire together.

Lucas B, Claxton, G & Spencer E (2013) Expansive Education: Teaching learners for the real world, ACER Press, Australia

Students and Staff at the All Night Awake Relay for the Term 1 Red Earth Cape York Immersion Program