Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Green Grass Grub

This is a song for Green Grass Grub

Green Grass Grubs that squish and squash and they squirt and squelch.
They squiggle in your face.
Pooing on your nose and weeing in your hair!
Sticky grubs are sticky and that's the end!
(copyright all rights reserved)

(I'll have to request a spider song next... after the encounter with a huge Orb Weaver I'm sure there'll be a wealth of material to go into that one!)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Visit and fellowship in Arnhemland

Thanks to good fortune I am currently employed in great job that occasionally requires me to travel to Aboriginal Communities in Arnhem Land. Recently I had the opportunity to visit the Island community of Milingimbi in North Eastern Arnhem Land. This was a special place for me to visit since it was the home of a man who had made a big impression on me before he passed away last year. He was a special person who had an enormous capacity for love and forgiveness he did a lot to create channels of communication and understanding between Yolngu and Balanda.

This has been my longest stay in an Arnhem Land community and the best chance I've had so far to experience the atmosphere in this unique part of the world.

Although my schedule was extremely busy and there were all kinds of logistical problems that I just hadn't counted on, I still managed to find plenty of opportunities to get about and meet up with some rather inspirational people as well as attend some local activities.

There's a lot going on over at Milingimbi at the moment and from my perspective I'd say much of it is very good.

Stained Glass Window
(Stained window, Milingimbi Church)

Milingimbi is an old Mission settlement and there are several Clan groups living in the township. As with most other Aboriginal Communities Milingimbi is affected by the Federal Intervention and all it's restrictions and impositions, however unlike many other Communities Milingimbi had already been dry for some time before the Intervention and functioned fairly well without the new laws that were brought down upon them 2 years or so ago. (Of course Milingimbi has seen some benefits from renewed interest from Government agencies)

relaxing on a rug
(Sitting in comfort on a rug on the sand)

While I was there I was fortunate to see just how well things can come together at the initiative of local people. Although my experience of Christianity is quite limited (actually prior to 5 years ago I'd had no meaningful contact with the religion outside of attending weddings or funerals) I'd have to say that the activities at Milingimbi are quite a phenomenon! There is a strong Christian Fellowship in Milingimbi that meets every night and I found the gatherings quite amazing! On my second night there I went along to the beach expecting maybe half a dozen loyal followers of the tradition handed to them by missionaries in the early 20th Century... What I found was a crowd of maybe 200 people, gathered together in fellowship, families, young and old people together. Singing, Dancing, Sharing stories. I saw a group of up to 30 young children performing a carefully choreographed dance, perfectly synchronized, later a group of about 8 young men performing their own dance, then more beautiful singing from the older ladies and on it went until late at night. People sitting happily with their family and friends, on rugs and mats as a gentle northerly sea breeze kept the sand-flies at bay and cooled the brows of some very enthusiastic performers.
What a BUZ!

Unlike many outback townships there were no sounds of drunken brawls, no screeching tires, smashing glass, abusive language or any of the behavior that might prevent families from venturing down Mitchel Street on any night... Just the sound of singing, happy chatter and the bark of an occasional dog as people wandered home after a night of warmth and fellowship.

It happened to be school sports week while I was there so lunch times were spent cheering the young athletes as they raced each other down the mains street. I'd heard about low attendance rates at Community schools but what I saw on Milingimbi seemed to contradict this story completely. In fact I saw kids turning up more than an hour early for school full of enthusiasm and ready to get stuck into the learning before their teachers had even arrived. The kids there really seemed to be engaged and interested in learning... The school seemed to have just the right ingredients. Music, Sport, some really involved teachers and a library full of Yolngu stories. The library even had a traditional hand carved canoe and one of the bark canoes from the film 10 Canoes. The Milingimbi School is COOL!

(Image if person now deceased has been removed out of respect for the family)

(Rev. Larry B------ with some home grown watermelons)

All these things were great but there was one aspect to this trip that really impressed me. While I was talking to Rev. Larry we got talking about gardening and all the benefits that come from growing vegetables in particular. Before I knew it he was imparting a whole philosophy on me that absolutely fit perfectly the concepts I'd been thinking about over the past few years. A program for providing young people with an environment where they can develop a sense of, community self worth and become confident independent thinkers. The Patch down in Leanyer is a great example of the enormous benefit this kind of education can improve the outcomes for students who are struggling with the regular curriculum.
Nature is a great teacher, by engaging with the natural processes of planting, nurturing and growing vegetables we can learn a lot about the skills we need in other aspects of life. Patience, care, observation, a little bit of sweat and the reward of reaping what we have sown... If for some reason the crop fails we learn how to deal with disappointment as we proceed to try again.
Larry has teamed up with a teacher at the school and they've been working with a couple of boys who have benefited greatly from the activities. The idea of a larger project has taken on and they've produced a short documentary in which Larry explains the philosophy behind the project which has an excellent name that I will publish when I know it's OK to do so.

It seems the school may even come on board and dedicate some land especially for the purpose of developing a larger training program around this philosophy! Since all the fresh fruit and vegetables on Milingimbi are imported, this project could have many flow on benefits for the community.

There's so much more I could rant on about but basically I have come home feeling recharged and optimistic about all the potential of this small community.

Sunday, May 02, 2010


Last night was the big night of the Nightcliff Seabreeze festival but for my little family there was something more important happening.

A young family who we were only just getting to know were headed back out on the road. Last night was our last chance to say goodbye.
Our friends came to Darwin while traveling the world and found themselves as caretakers at a local Church. They were here for just long enough for us to fall in love with little "M" who became a significant part of our weekend activities and play.
We'll miss them dearly. Watching the kids play together was a highlight of my week!
Introducing the kids to all kinds of fresh grown food, sampling beans, fruit and vegetables from the garden together was an absolute joy! Sharing "J's" amazing sour dough bread, and listening to him play the Mandolin as we sat in the shade while the kids scooped at tadpoles in the bathtub pond has been the greatest pleasure for me over the past few months.
Saturday and Sunday mornings just won't be the same without you guys!

So while half of Darwin was whooping it up down at the Nightcliff foreshore a small group of friends gathered to share some food, play games and enjoy the rhythm of some pretty mean Jembe bangers as we farewell our friends about to begin a new adventure.

(Playing in the parachute)

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Crafty skills

One of our little friends has been learning to sew and has picked up some pretty neat stitches along the way. I've been watching her practice her stitches the last few times we've been together and have been very impressed.

I was even more impressed when she told me she was creating a cushion for her friend (Our daughter). Time passed and we've been off gallivanting around NZ and Victoria for the past couple of weeks.
When we got back what do you suppose we were presented with...?

(Best butterfly cushion ever!)

Just the finest butterfly cushion I've ever seen from an 8 year old! And my daughter was well impressed too! There's nothing like the creativity of a child to make you feel good!