Bourke Community Service Trip
In 2012 Ross Willing and Matthew Zaidan, now alumni, began discussing how the college could better engage in community service. Along with New College staff they held discussions with Rebecca Harcourt, who is the Indigenous Program Coordinator at Nuru Gilli, UNSW. The idea developed into planning a cultural trip to an Indigenous community, specifically Bourke in far North-West rural New South Wales.
The purpose of the trip was for New Collegians to spend a week at the Bourke assisting the Police & Citizens Youth Club (PCYC) with its children’s holiday program. A group of collegians, consisting of Ross Willing, Khierah Salam, Matthew Zaidan, Mathew Cork, Ben Cumming, Sarah Hyland, Mackenzie Russel and Tim Curtin, came together to start planning the trip. They attended briefings with Carol Vale, who has a wealth of experience working with Indigenous communities, and Rebecca Harcourt from Nura Gili. They learnt about the disadvantaged community of Bourke and cultural sensitivities in Indigenous communities.
Rebecca Harcourt decided to go on the trip with the New Collegians and invited Alison Golding (known as Aunty Ali) to join the team too. Aunty Ali is an incredible person and Aboriginal Elder who has contributed in many ways to Australian life and support of Indigenous communities.
On Saturday 12th January the team packed into the College bus and set off on what was to be a very long road trip. On their second day travelling they began to realise how far from the coast they actually were – surrounded by red dirt, pale green trees, blue sky and a long straight road. Getting out of the bus the true outback heat hit – it was over 48 degrees with a lovely hot wind.
Arriving at Bourke, the team met up with Jake and Tereka – the managers of the PCYC. The Collegians met the children for the first time by dressing up as clowns with wigs and face paint. Their sheer enthusiasm and lack of inhibitions meant that they soon earned the respect of the children and the week got off to a flying start.
Throughout the week the team of New Collegians helped to run a host of activities for the kids. The most popular of these were cricket and duck-duck-goose. They played circus games, made up dances and skits, played basketball and soccer, cooked ‘Johnny cakes’ with Aunty Ali, did scrapbooking, took lots of fun photos, and went to the pool at Lightning Ridge.
On the last Friday night the team enjoyed a BBQ at Mount Oxley and watched a beautiful sunset as they reflected on the week. The collegians hoped their presence had had a positive impact on the children in the community and perhaps instilled the idea that school education is important and university worth striving for.
The trip proved very worthwhile. It gave the team members a first-hand insight into the socio-economic disadvantages of a rural indigenous community. It also broadened their perspectives through a cultural immersion which challenged them physically, intellectually and emotionally. Most importantly, the kids they were serving had a lot of fun whilst they were there.