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Punmu Immersion Experience

Punmu sits in the very heartland of Western Australia, nestled in the Pilbara’s Western Desert region.

After a flight to Port Hedland, Santa Maria students and staff made the 650 km trek to this remote indigenous community. This is the 13th year students and staff have visited Punmu.

For the first time, two groups headed off, the first group during the last week of term, and the second group in the first week of the holidays. There were 12 Year 11 students on each trip accompanied by three staff members.

During the visit students were involved in service and cultural activities. The groups cleaned, painted and organised areas within the RAWA School, learnt basket weaving, visited local sites, hunted, and ate lizard and witchity grubs.

Below are reflections from two staff and  students who attended.

James Rees, Technologies & Commerce teacher
“The opportunity to spend time learning from the Martu people was one that does not present itself frequently. Throughout the trip I had many highlights and wonderful experiences, but my most memorable moment was going out to hunt with three boys from the Punmu community. The boys wanted to teach me how they hunt for lizards. It was an amazing experience to see the boys’ knowledge and skills of hunting first hand. The experience of Punmu has enhanced my knowledge and understanding of how much community and taking care of the land means to the Aboriginal peoples. The trip has taught me about the importance of slowing down, enjoying experiences and building relationships.”

Bianca Stockden, Year 6 teacher
“My first teaching job was in Broome and it was there that I really gained an understanding and appreciation of Aboriginal people and their culture. This trip provided an opportunity to explore that more and to guide some incredible young women to experience it for themselves. Camping out, under the stars at Well 33 on the Canning Stock Route after a big cook-up on the fire with the people of Kunawarritji, was a true highlight. Another was seeing the way the Santa girls embraced every opportunity with their big hearts, footy skills, entertaining dance moves, cook-ups and painting efforts! They were wonderful ambassadors for the College as they conducted themselves as young Mercy women. The experience was incredibly heart-warming. I feel so grateful to have met many generous Mardu people who displayed such pride in showing and teaching others about their culture. As a teacher, I feel a heightened sense of enthusiasm and excitement to share the experience with my students and to encourage them to seek opportunities to learn about Aboriginal culture.”

Tehya Conroy, Year 11 student
“The most memorable moment for me was the camp out in Kunawaritji. It was amazing seeing all the stars and spending time with the children before dinner. Cooking a stew over a fire and sleeping outside was also an amazing experience. It bought us all so much closer to the children and the rest of the community. They each told us so many stories and shared so much with us. We also got to try kangaroo.  I feel like the experience has changed my perspectives. Having the opportunity to meet so many lovely and friendly children, and to stay in a welcoming environment. Everyone in the community was so willing to share their culture with us, which really caused us to reflect on our understanding of the culture and land. Being away from our phones also definitely made us think about how much time we all spend on technology! Everyone on the trip was so supportive of each other and we all definitely embraced every new experience we were offered over the week. If you love service, this tour is so rewarding and even if you don’t think you want to go or are hesitant to apply, you should definitely apply. It’s so much more than you expect it to be, it was honestly the best week I’ve ever had!”

Maya Faulds, Year 11 student
“Punmu was one of the most amazing and life-changing experiences of my life so far. It has made me more aware of the world around me, and I have learnt so much about myself and other people, especially the beautiful, rich and ancient Martu people and their culture. Through working with the Martu children, Martu elders and the teachers in both the Punmu and Kunawarritji communities and learning about the Martu land, culture and traditions, I have come to have a much deeper understanding of the value that our Indigenous Australians have within Australian society. The immersion helped me look at Australia in a different, more in-depth way and better understand the importance of maintaining, respecting and learning about their culture and traditions, and the strong connections they have with the land. By working with so many amazing people during the Punmu trip, the importance of not judging people based on stereotypes within society has been reinforced for me. I realised that service in community is not just about helping others, but that it is reciprocal; I gained more from the experience than I was able to give.  The kids at both communities were simply beautiful and have made me realise that helping, spending time with people and listening to their stories can have a lasting positive impact on our lives and how we connect with people. If you are thinking of applying for the Punmu trip in the future, I strongly urge you to. It will seriously change your life for the better as it has mine. It is an experience that I will never, ever, ever forget.”

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