21 October 2022

Life Without Barriers Brisbane-based Child, Youth and Family team made a special journey together for a Cultural Immersion event held at Gittaba Cultural Camp.

Uncle Boomi performs a smoking ceremony

Life Without Barriers has been privileged to continue a 15-year+ partnership with Gittaba and Uncle Boomi Hegarty to organise cultural camps for young men and women in care, as well as the Strong Spirit Woman Camp.

Recently, we held a cultural immersion event at Gittaba Cultural Camp on Ugarapul Country to build the cultural capability of our team, opening our hearts and minds to Reconciliation. The event was a fantastic opportunity to learn more about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, their resilience, wisdom and cultures.

It was the first time Melissa Pedersen, Program Manager Child Youth and Family Queensland, had attended such an event. She was struck by the peace and quiet of the Country and the impact the smoking ceremony had on her.

“I loved the smoking ceremony,” Melissa shared.

“They are always beautiful to be a part of, and it was magical to have 40 of my team members sitting in one big circle as Uncle Boomi went around to each person.

“Everyone participated respectfully, and there was absolute silence. You could hear the birds and all the sounds of nature from so far away. It was truly special.”

Uncle Boomi performing a smoking ceremony.

Melissa and her team learnt about dreaming stories and how important it was, and still is, for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures to have these stories passed down. They were taught about the deep respect held for these stories and the responsibility held to get the stories right and the truth-telling accurate.

Melissa also participated in a painting exercise and learnt about the different meanings of symbols. Each clan has specific symbols that guide and tell the story of their Country that other clans won’t use out of respect.

The day also provided an opportunity to do some basket weaving and learn about the importance of basket weaving skills and tools.

Life Without Barriers staff doing a basket weaving activity.

“I would definitely recommend this to all staff that work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children,” Melissa said.

“To learn more about the Country you are on, as well as cultural information that we can use in our practice, was so helpful.”

“It was also such a healing day. We were encouraged to take our shoes off and connect with the earth, which was beneficial to ground and focus us in the moment.”

Life Without Barriers staff participating in a bushwalk

The day also provided an opportunity for staff to reflect on what Reconciliation means to them.

“Reconciliation for me is living in a country where we value and take the lead from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in relation to our country’s future,” Melissa said.

“It’s where we recognise their vast wisdom about our country and seek their guidance on its future.”

Four women standing around a table outdoors making food.

Leoni Lippitt, State Lead Queensland, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Initiatives, organised the cultural immersion event and was pleased to hear the impact the experience had on her colleagues.

“Uncle Boomi Welcomed everyone to Country in a smoking ceremony, chanting the words of his Ancestors to warn away any bad energy or bad spirits,” Leoni said.

“Uncle also shared the story of Gittaba, where we were gathered, and I invited staff to take off their shoes to feel the ground beneath their feet.

“We came together with food, walking the Country, yarning with Elders, yarning with colleagues, and enjoying the untouched space.

“I’d like to thank all staff for opening their minds to this very different experience.”

Group photo of Life Without Barriers staff at the Cultural Immersion Day event.

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