A group of five Year 10 Victorian College for the Deaf students applied to DCA for our Youth Grants to help them visit a Bunuba indigenous community in Yiramalay, the Kimberleys in Western Australia. The amazing three week experience, run in conjunction with Wesley College, had a profound impact on all the VCD students and we were so pleased we could help them get there. Read their story below and be inspired. Then check out our Youth Grants page and get your application in by 30 April for your chance for DCA to help you go on your own adventure or achieve your dream!
Students Brielle, Tassos, Zelline and Emad wrote this reflection on their experiences together with their teacher Jeremy Brett.
“This was a unique opportunity to learn about indigenous culture and pastoralism in a remote outback community in the Kimberley, WA.
We learnt how to be Jackaroos and Jillaroos with aboriginal elders and leaders on the cattle station. We learnt how to ride a horse, fix fences and muster and draft cattle.
We learnt that Aboriginals have managed land and culture here for at least 40,000 years. They have a profound connection with the land and have looked after it accordingly with respect, knowledge and admiration. Their unique knowledge systems passed down for thousands of generations through oral tradition, dance, art and culture has served them well for the thousands of years they have been here.
Out here we learnt of the value and importance of community that was composed of people from various communities including school, Deaf, Aboriginal and local communities. We had duties every day to complete and connected with people in our community which sometimes took a while but it did happen. By working together, we developed a Yiramalay community that was accepting and respectful of all cultures.
The custom of welcome to country and revealing yourself to the local land was done by throwing rock in water with our sweat. This was done to announce ourselves to country and for the spirits of the land to keep us safe.
We felt a connection with the Aboriginal people and we respected and appreciated their history and knowledge. They too learnt about Deaf history and some of the common parallels that we have with indigenous history.
We came to have a deeper understanding of their issues with alcohol and drug abuse – the shame of their history under white occupation and the helplessness they felt with their land being taken away from them.
The elders liked Emad’s story of being a boat refugee from Afghanistan. It is a story of hardship, discrimination and determination that also had struck a chord with the locals. He received a lot of attention up there. They were fascinated by him and this empowered Emad to share his story and develop confidence in himself that he is indeed a person and a citizen that can contribute much to Australian society.
We learnt about the struggles of Aboriginal people and the story of Jandamarra and the Bunuba uprising. We visited historic sites where battles took place and elders who were custodians of stories sat us down and told us mesmerising stories.
The sharing of Auslan and Deaf culture with the Aboriginal community and Wesley community was a great success; it was embraced with respect, fascination and enjoyment. The students helped run Auslan classes every morning. This helped bridge the language gap between all cultures in this community.
We learnt about various Aboriginal arts, their stories and meaning, saw ancient rock carvings that have been dated to 40,000 years.
We visited spectacular places like Bell Gorge, Y Spring and Cable Beach in Broome. We were all amazed at the beauty and uniqueness of these places.
The VCD students were initially shy and anxious but later became confident and their journey of personal development was incredible to see even in three weeks. Tassos is a very talented dancer and we never knew this side of him until he performed for us at Yiramalay. Brielle became a social butterfly and connected with everyone up there. Emad found self belief that he has a unique story to tell and share. He also won the director’s award for most outstanding contribution and all round participation at Yiramalay. Zelline tried everything and became a stand out worker in the community. Every student should be proud of themselves for their amazing efforts and ability to embrace a wonderful experience and learning opportunity at Yiramalay.
This was a great experience that I believe is life changing for these young Deaf people. They have returned back to Melbourne more confident, passionate about culture and community and developed leadership skills that have been invaluable to the VCD school community. They now are well on their way to becoming leaders in the Deaf community.”
To read more of the VCD students’ adventures in the Kimberley, read Jeremy’s Yiramalay blog.