4 July 2018

Ten unsure and dislocated girls arrived at our camp, excited but hesitant about what was ahead. Two days later, 10 focused and proud young women departed, transformed and confident, ready to take their place in the world.

Welcome to Bullang Bullogahn Talgunn – the first ever Strong Spirit Woman Camp, designed and supported by Queensland State Lead Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Initiatives, Leoni Lippett, as part of the South East Queensland RAP program. For some time, return-to-country camps have been held for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island men and boys associated with Life Without Barriers, but Leoni was concerned nothing was on offer for young women.

She facilitated taking 10 young women to the spiritually significant, and utterly beautiful, Mount Tamborine on the Scenic Rim escarpment, for two days of connection to country, to their cultural history, and to each other.

“We got together with elders and asked some very respected Aunties to come along and work with the girls,” said Leoni. “The camp, which was a mixture of traditional craft, traditional cooking, bushwalks, music and dance and a whole lot of yarning, was supported by five overnight staff members, six staff during the days and the Aunties. Silvia, Cindy and all the staff involved were totally committed to making this a special experience.

“We had two Aunties on day one and three on day two. They took these young women on a journey into themselves, into their spirits, into their culture. The results were life-changing – the complete transformation of these young women happened before our eyes. It was one of the most amazing experiences any of us could remember.”

Leoni said the simple act of being together, identifying as Aboriginal and / or Torres Strait Islander, letting their guard down enough to listen and learn from the Aunties, and trusting in the cultural connection they were making was enough to bring an awakening to the young women.

“There were some very emotionally choking moments, right from the very start when we were all introducing ourselves. One young woman just said: “I am Aboriginal, but I don’t know who my people are or where they come from”. She looked so lost, so heartbroken. That set the scene for many moments of tears and hugs.”

Tamborine is home to the Yugambeh people and Tamborine means ‘wild lime’ after the precious fruit which grows on the escarpment. Wonglepong is another Yugambeh name for Tamborine – it means ‘hearing wrong way’ from the echo which reverberates around the mountain.

These wild fruits will never hear the same again – now connected to spirit, they will always listen for the echo of the message they learned on that magnificent mountain.

Leoni summed up the experience:

“The young women’s journey may change as they now have their Dreaming and I hope the wise words of encouragement from the Aunties will be a foundation on which they can continue building their strong connection to culture.”

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