May 23 – Brianne

May 23, 2013

In-Country Blog:

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!


Group picture at Charles Sturt University

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.


Okra Rock Ceremony

Hayley after the Ceremony with the Okra Rock spots on her face

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.


Aboriginal Cultural Activity- Rebuilding Wagga Wagga


Key: Hills (rocks) Murray River (big blue ribbon) Floodplains (gray) Streams (little blue string) Sand Hills (orange)

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.

Josh playing the Didgeridoo

Josh playing the Didgeridoo

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.

Tour through Yindyamarra

Tour through Yindyamarra

Olive Tree

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.

Pre-Departure Blog:

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!

Wagga Wagga Area Map

Wagga Wagga Area Map

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.

Map of Indigenous Land Use Agreements in Australia in 2010

Map of Indigenous Land Use Agreements in Australia in 2010

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.

On-site Farms

Charles Sturt University: On-site Farms

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:

Agreements, Treaties and Negotiated Settlements Project:

Wagga Wagga ICC:

Wagga Wagga, Australia Guide:

Wagga Wagga Weather:

City of Wagga Wagga:

pictures taken by: Brianne Dowdall, Michelle Jacokes


10 thoughts on “May 23 – Brianne

  1. It was awesome to hear from a couple indigenous people today an learn about how they viewed sustainability. I thought that the visual of the land and how western people had changed it was eye opening. The fact that before colonization there were so few aboriginal people in Australia and now there are 23 million total people shows how much the continent has changed and it was so interesting to see how aboriginal people fit in modern day Australia.

    • ribnick2

      The Aboriginal people were very sustainable before the western culture was intergrated, they were much more conservative with the planets natural resources. We learned that tribes would leave trails of their meals behing when they moved so the next people to come along wouldn’t eat the same food. This would make sure the region would have a stable amount of food.

  2. paulsturr

    I feel the Charles Sturt site visit had the most informational and educational stuff of all our site visits so far. Because I’m doing water quality for my topic for my final paper, naturally I’ll lean toward Dr. Howitt’s lecture. It was an interesting one that focused on all of Australia’s weather problems combined into one: Heat, flooding and drought. She talked about how the water quality drastically drops after flooding and reabsorption of water further down the Murray River. The dissolved O2 levels decrease, the river dries up, and pH levels fall. This potentially causes the fish and other native species that reside in the river to die. When they die off, there is a decrease in biodiversity and thus sustainability. Also the water quality itself is an issue, like Brianne mentioned, for a multitude of reasons including: potable water, irrigation, and other reasons. These reasons and many others detract from a sustainable environment.

  3. It was so great to learn more about the indigenous culture. The love they have for the land and the strong connection they have to it is truly amazing. They have so much respect and gratitude towards mother nature. One of the things I found interesting was that the indigenous children take their mother’s last name instead of their father’s last name. They are associated with their mother’s tribe as well. This is completely different from what I am used to, so it was very fascinating! What an informational day!

  4. This day was insightful and it had opened my eyes on what means to live on and own land. The oborginal people of Austurlia have lived in this land for thousands of years and they have learned to sustain it but then the Europeans came and they have been struggling to sustain it for the past 200 years they been on this land. I think that it will interesting if the Austrilains realize that learning from the past is the best way to go and that they find ways to combine the traditional oborginal culture and tey western culture.

  5. I really enjoyed this visit. Before this trip, I knew nothing about aboriginal people. It was very cool to see the respect that the instructors at csu had for the aboriginal people and culture. I was one of the people who got the honorary markings on their face and I could really tell that the instructors were giving me a huge sign of respect. This ceremony was not taken lightly.
    Also, having the boys come in and play their instruments for us was really cool. Admittedly, I don’t know a whole lot about native American culture; just the basics we learned in school. It’s fascinating to be learning about the aboriginal ways, culture, and Ceremonies. I’m so glad to be on this trip!

  6. kramer67

    This site visit was one of my favorites, and a lot of that had to do with the fact that it was completely different from anything we had experienced before. Learning about aboriginal culture is one thing, but experiencing it first hand with people deeply involved in the culture is another. The map that we made out of cloth, ribbons, vegetation, and animal figures was so interesting because It showed us how to build a culture using the simplest things. The speakers said so many times how important the concept of “country” is and I will remember that talk forever. The aboriginal culture has been so damaged and it was really refreshing to see people trying to take such a positive initiative for change. This was a powerful visit for me, very spiritual, and I felt connected to what was being said. I think everyone should experience a talk like the one we had, it makes you appreciate what you have and your “country.” This trip is giving me new insights and I can’t wait to learn more about the aboriginal culture.

    • Mary Beth Kramer

      As your parents, we are completely thrilled that this has had such an impact on you! The world is a big place and we are all connected and have so much to learn from each other. We are grateful you have had this opportunity! Make the most of it!

  7. Shelly Schmidt

    This sounds like such an interesting day! I love to learn about the history of ancestors and feel history is so important- how cool for you to experience this! The picture of the rocks separating is amazing- and loved to hear about the ceremony and like that you got to meet a local and see and hear him play his instrument. What an amazing adventure for the group!

  8. Ian Seager

    I was really intrigued by the indigeonous culture and the way they listened and interacted with their landscape and local climate. Modern western culture has a tendency to block out and bypass the normal paterns of the natural world and I thought the example they showed of how the aboriginal people existed sustainable on the Australian continent for 50,000 years and westerners have done so much damage to it in just 200 years did a good job of showing how diconection from nature is such a dangerous thing for the health of the planet. The aboriginal culture is also so steeped in these long term traditions and the eternal nature of existence which is practiced in how they made sure only take as much from the land as it could supprt. I find western culture is very ephemeral by comparison an as a result they might no be able to last the 50,000 years that “primitive” aboriginal cultures manged to unless we learn to think futher ahead than just to the next day and the next dollar.

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