Former Berrigan resident Brittany Dunn has been living for the past six weeks in the Northern Territory while teaching at a remote Aboriginal community.
Imagine waking up to continuous blue skies, bulging Boab Trees, red dirt, massive smiles and the worry of giant salt water crocodiles in the East Baines River only 20 metres from your front door.
This is the lifestyle former Berrigan resident Brittany Dunn has been living for the past six weeks while teaching at a remote Aboriginal community in the Northern Territory.
‘‘When starting at Victoria University in 2010, I would have never thought that I would end up teaching in an Aboriginal community within the remote outback of Northern Territory.
‘‘I was one of 20 students who were lucky to be selected to attend the SWIRL (Story Writing in Remote Locations) program.
‘‘The SWIRL program has been running for 18 years thanks to Lawry Mahon, an inspirational man, who on a trip around remote Northern Territory realised how culturally inaccurate most literature texts were within Aboriginal communities.
‘‘For example, stories about city living and catching trains are fantastic for their imagination, but can’t possibly resonate with the Indigenous students, as many have never seen nor lived that type of lifestyle.’’
Having joined the program, Brittany is now affectionately referred to as a ‘Swirler’.
Her role is to work with the students to give them the confidence to create books that represent who they are culturally and in a setting that they can relate to.
‘‘I was placed at Bulla community, 360km’s South-West of Katherine with my Vic Uni peer, Jessica Gemmel-Smith.
‘‘From the minute we arrived, we looked at each other and said together, ‘we ain’t in Kansas anymore’.
‘‘Tim (teaching principal), Renee (teacher) and the three valuable teaching assistants at Bulla School welcomed us with open arms.
‘‘They were very hospitable, accommodating and supportive – especially Tim, considering we took over his three bedroom house, while he was left to live in his caravan for six weeks.’’
Brittany said she and Jess were able to help each child create one book each during their time at Bulla.
‘‘Through many tears, laughs and at times endless nights of laminating, each day was different.
‘‘The kids have this funny way of always making you smile, whether it is on the inside or out.
‘‘Images of them curled up into a ball, due to being freezing cold, on their basketball court with their little arms and legs tucked into their shirt on a 20 degree morning will never leave my mind (considering Melbourne had a top of 12 degrees that day).
‘‘Nor will the many dance-offs that took place showcasing their infamous hip hop moves under the Boab Trees during a pink skied sunset.’’
Brittany sid she was amazed by the knowledge the students showed of local flora and fauna, who explained to her they are crucial to life in Bulla.
‘‘It made me realise that there is so much that I can take away from these kids teaching me, as well as me teaching them.
‘‘For instance, I no longer jump when a bird or turtle is shoved in my face, as the kids enjoy catching local wildlife and telling me all about it, including their names in both English as well as their traditional language.
‘‘I also now think twice when picking leaves and flowers due to a student filling me in on what is poisonous and what is edible.
‘‘It just goes to prove that the saying ‘one mouth and two ears’, observing and listening can sometimes teach you more, and what I have learnt from these kids is invaluable.’’
Brittany said her trip was ‘‘inspirational and life changing’’, and has motivated her to continue working in the Northern Territory in 2014.
‘‘I will miss seeing the kids’ bright smiles whist they are running around barefooted playing football on the dry prickly grass.’’
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