On Saturday I went on IES Abroad’s last day trip to the Royal National Park. The park proclaimed in 1879 is the world’s second oldest national park, after Yellowstone in the US. It was named the Royal National Park after Queen Elizabeth II passed through the park on her way to Wallongong in 1954. Traveling within Australia, many things are named after the queen, haha.. the Queen Victoria Building, Elizabeth Street, etc. Interestingly enough, the Australian people seem quite content with the British royals in charge, especially now with the addition of Prince George.
After quite a rough week at school, it was nice to get out and enjoy Australia. The park is 150 square km and thankfully we had a tour guide. It would be so easy to get lost in there. We began the day learning about the aboriginal people from the area. Our presenter was a native from the area and conveyed his deep passion for his culture while showing us different tools and plants that were used for survival. His anger was evident, as his people have gone through a lot, crushed by discrimination, the Stolen Generation, and current policies that strip away their resources and ability to live off the land. Aboriginals in northern Australia have the highest suicide rates in the world and 4/5 of the suicides are young boys aged 10-13. Aboriginals are viewed as incompetent with very high unemployment rates and very low levels of education. Our presenter said that the many teens that have lost there way behave as they do because of their lack of culture and direction. The aboriginal people are fighting the government and racing against time to learn from elders and preserve their culture.
I think their culture is quite beautiful. Their 3 main pillars are respect, patience, and observation. They are taught from a very young age to take only what they need and that it is greedy and selfish to take more. This shows their collectivist nature, ensuring that everyone has enough. It has become human nature to take as much as we can in case we need it later. Each looks out for their own, leaving many with more than they need and many with nothing at all. The aboriginals also believe in speaking to plants. When picking fruit, they first shake the tree . If a fruit drops then it was meant for them. If nothing drops the plant is telling them to move on. Fruit on the floor already is for the animals. The aboriginal only take the fruit that was meant for them. They live within nature and understand the importance to preserve it.
The symbol below is something the presenter showed us. The spear tip represents ones’ goal in life. The other part of the spear, then is the path that leads you to your goal. The 2 boomerangs on the sides of the spear represent paths of distractions and the sticks extending from them represent distractions that pull you way off track. The boomerangs curve back to the center, however, representing that you have the power to get yourself back on track. The 3 clapping sticks over the spear are the 3 pillars, patience, respect, and observation and the boomerang at the top represents the responsibility to pass on culture and knowledge to others. I really like the symbol, saying it’s important to have a focus and purpose in life and recognize when some things are just distractions. There are so many challenges in life that can derail us, but the aboriginals believe each of us have the power to get ourselves back on track and find our purpose. I like it, I like the concept. After the presentation, we got to throw a boomerang. If you throw it right, it will come back to you. Mine curved a bit, but didn’t quite making it back.
We then went canoeing. The river was beautiful, weaving through forest. I had a strong rowing partner too, which made it even more enjoyable.
After canoeing we had some lunch and then went on a bush walk. What Australians call a nice little walk, is actually a 2 hour trek, hopping from rock to rock and attempting not to slip and twist an ankle. The area, however, was beautiful and we ended up at a waterfall at what seemed like the middle of no where. When I think of Australia, this is what I always imagined it to be. The day was great, with good company and a nice change of environment.
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">My name is Melanie Bracht and I am a junior at the University of South Carolina. I am originally from Pennsylvania, but have lived in several states in the US and abroad in China. I love to travel and have been to 29 different countries. I, however, have never been to Australia and am so excited to explore down under for a semester at the University of Sydney. I enjoy volunteering, writing, and playing tennis.</span></p>