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Service Tours Make a Comeback


Students in Years 9 and 10 opened their eyes to the majesty of the outback and contributed to the lives of others in a series of perspective-changing experiences over the holidays.

Separated into five destination groups, they journeyed to locations such as Central Australia, the Kimberley, and Kangaroo Island, in a welcome return for the Wenona Service Tours program. Most itineraries featured opportunities to work alongside Indigenous people for a deeper understanding of Aboriginal culture and the biodiversity of the Australian landscape.


Bethan (Year 9) visited Central Australia, where the key experience was a stay on the property of Indigenous couple John and Lorraine Little. The students spent their days learning to dig trenches, mix and lay cement and make a plant nursery, as well as hunt for witchetty grubs and make Aboriginal-style jewellery from fruit stones. At night, they sat around the campfire, listening to Indigenous stories before sleeping in swags (under the stars when the weather permitted).


Sarah (Year 9), was in one of three service groups that journeyed to the East Kimberley region and describes working with the local Indigenous children as transformative. "Our service was centred around the Police Citizens Youth Clubs (PCYC) and their work to provide much-needed healthy activities and meals for Aboriginal children in the area. While we worked in the community garden and helped build a path in a nature learning space, most of our work was with the kids, preparing food and eating meals with them, kayaking, playing basketball and spending time at the skate park," she says. "There was one eight or nine-year-old boy who would jump and wave with excitement every time he saw us. It made a big impact on me to see that it doesn't matter if you have different lives and come from very different places. You can still make real connections and friendships."


Each trip incorporated cultural learning activities and experiences in exhilaratingly beautiful outback environments. Sarah visited the deep gorges, ranges and salt flats of El Questro in the East Kimberley. Bethan's group discovered the majesty of Stanley Chasm and Kings Canyon. "The giant walls of Stanley Chasm made me feel so small, somehow putting life into perspective, while the area around Kings Canyon was just stunning. Our six-kilometre walk included the Garden of Eden sacred space. We got to walk in individually, 20-30 metres apart, so we could take it all in and connect with it in silence. It was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to." A stay on a camel farm where they tried camel burgers was a novel experience: "they had a weird, different texture", but the biggest impression was left by Uluru. "We were so immersed in the Indigenous culture by this stage that it felt different from what I imagine is the regular tourist experience," she says. "Our guide Leroy took us for a walk around the rock, telling us some of the less-heard stories and showing us the significant markings around the rock's side. We started to build a much deeper connection and could appreciate the real meaning behind it," Bethan says.


During the tours, the students were tasked with identifying the needs of the communities they visited and planning ways to fundraise for them on their return. Sarah's group were so impressed by the underfunding of the East Kimberley PCYC's essential work, that they will be raising money for its current programs. "They achieve so much with so little money and are really changing the lives of the children in the area. We just want to make it easier for them to do what they do."