May 23, 2013
We’re already done with day 13 in Australia, approaching the halfway point in our trip! I must start my blog off by wishing the greatest mom out there a very happy birthday! I hope you have the best day Cindy, I love you!
Well, we have all had a very long day in Wagga Wagga, but it has been such an interesting, fun and informative one. We began early this morning at the Indigenous Coordination Center, talking to Jeff Simpson and Dick Green. To start off, they lead us through a brief history of the Indigenous tribal groups, called “mobs”. There are 500-700 mobs across Australia that are linguistically and culturally based. They all share one important thing in common, which is respect towards their elders. Different groups cannot speak on behalf of another group without the consent of an elder, as a sign of recognition and respect.
To pay our respect as Spartans, we conducted a modern-day ceremony with white Okra rocks. Using the chalk off of the rock, we first placed a dot on the forehead, which reminds us to keep our minds open. The second dot is placed on the side of one eye, telling us to keep our eyes open and not to forget where our knowledge comes from. The third spot by the ear tells us to listen, and lastly the fourth spot goes under the mouth, reminding us not to talk more than needed.
Once the ceremony ended, Jeff and Dick laid out a large piece of yellow fabric on the floor to represent the land of Wagga Wagga. The activity was to recreate Australia’s landscape based on natural resources and wildlife. This was a great activity that engaged everyone. We all took turns adding hills, river systems, flood plains, streams, sand hills, vegetation and animals. We strategically placed people near water sources and the wildlife because this is how the Aboriginals developed their tribes many years ago. The Indigenous people used to live in such a sustainable manner. As the tribes would hunt animals, they took notice of when the population of such animal became low. Once this happened, the people would move their camp to another location and begin to hunt and gather other food. This is a great environmental practice, which avoided the unnatural extinction of species. The many tribes grew larger, each with their own unique culture and practices. One thing they all had in common though was the relationship the people shared with the land. Aboriginal people respect and take special care of their land, because it is the land that we all rely and depend on.
We learned all about the Indigenous people’s culture from the past and also what the future looks like for them. An Indigenous boy, Josh, stopped by our room and played the Didgeridoo for us. The Didgeridoo is one of the oldest instruments, meant to be played by men only. The men make their own instrument and carve in the story line of their life onto it as they grow older. We learned so much about this culture and I think it is safe to say that the visit was eye-opening for everyone. The main idea behind everything we learned was the connection between culture and Country. When we lose the connection to our history and ancestors, we also lose a sense of identity and belonging. The Aboriginal people here are working on leading communities back in the right direction by integrating culture with modern-day communities and businesses.
Before breaking for lunch, Jeff and Dick gave us a guided tour through Yindyamarra, which is a reconciliation project where people may connect with the spirit of the country. One of the landmarks that really stood out to me was an olive tree. Olive trees symbolize peace, but this specific one is growing through a large pile of stones. The tree is spreading the rocks apart, which comes to show how living, organic things can overcome anything.
Later in the afternoon, we visited Charles Sturt University’s School of Agricultural and Wine Sciences. Here we listened to 4 different speakers talk about all of the research and projects currently taking place at the University. The first, Professor John Mawson, spoke to us about the history of the school, which began as an experimental farm in 1892. It is now is Australia’s largest regional University and distance education provider (overseas courses can be taken online). There are 5 metropolitan campuses in Australia and one international campus in Ontario, Canada. The school is currently conducting a lot of research dealing with Agriculture Science and Wine Science. Ted Wolfe gave us an overview of the agricultural perspectives in New South Wales. He explained the sheep-wheat belt that bends around south-eastern Australia and how Australia operates as an integrated farming system. Leslie Weston, head of the plant and weed biology research team, is an MSU graduate that came and talked to us about the path that lead her to Australia and the research she has been conducting at her time spent at CSU. Dr. Julia Howitt is in charge of water management issues in the Murray-Darling Basin. Water is a major issue in Australia because it is such a dry continent. They have been experiencing floods after a long drought, so there have been issues with the changing water level and health of the rivers.
Tonight’s our last night in Wagga Wagga and then it’s off to Sydney! Unfortunately that means we will be leaving Flick in the morning. She made us kangaroo burgers for our last dinner together and it was delicious. She has been the best mom away from home we could have ever hoped for! We are going to miss her so much! We want to give her a huge thank you and make sure she knows how awesome she has made this trip for everyone.
Here I am on the night of my 20th birthday, the day before our departure, writing this blog. I must say this is procrastination at it’s finest. While I’ve been busy all week packing and saying my goodbyes for summer, the only thing left to do is get on the plane and fly to Australia!
Nearing the half way point of our trip, we will be visiting Wagga Wagga in New South Wales. This will be our second day here, already having visited the City Council. We are going to start the morning off by going to the Indigenous Coordination Center, which is just one of the many centers variously located around Australia. These 30+ establishments are all part of the ATNS (Agreements, Treaties and Negotiated Settlements) Project. This project began in 2002 and was created to examine past and present treaties or any agreements made with the indigenous people of Australia. Research is conducted on past legal settlements and also on the outcomes of such agreements. By looking at the effects of settlements and the role they have played in the indigenous people’s lives, the project can see what agreements in the future will benefit the land, people’s health, economic development and even education.
Next on the agenda is to head over to Charles Sturt University in the afternoon to learn about their water management and cropping systems. The campus in Wagga Wagga originally opened in 1892 with an experiment farm, which offered on site agriculture classes. The University offers a Sustainable Agriculture program for students, focusing on strategically and efficiently managing industries, while keeping the environment, the economy and social factors all in balance. We will be learning much more about how the school is sustainable to it’s crops and the agriculture.
While we are in Wagga Wagga, the weather should reach the mid 60s. Let’s hope for sunshine and no rain! If we are left with free time at the end of the day, there are plenty of things to see and do. There are lots of bike trails to explore, art galleries and museums, and a boutique market that may still be open to do some shopping. There is a Civic Theatre also, which will have a college performance of the musical “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”, if anyone is interested in theater. After one more day in Wagga Wagga, we will be off to see the beautiful town of Sydney.
Indigenous Coordination Center
Charles Sturt University: http://www.csu.edu.au/
Agreements, Treaties and Negotiated Settlements Project: http://www.atns.net.au/agreement.asp?EntityID=3073
Wagga Wagga ICC: http://www.csu.edu.au/about/locations/wagga-wagga
Wagga Wagga, Australia Guide: http://www.waggawaggaaustralia.com.au
Wagga Wagga Weather: http://www.weather.com/weather/today/Wagga+Wagga+ASXX0415:1:AS
City of Wagga Wagga: http://www.wagga.nsw.gov.au/city-of-wagga-wagga/council/about-council/local-government-area-map
pictures taken by: Brianne Dowdall, Michelle Jacokes