it happens every easter.
Every Easter for the past 13 years. And we don’t really want to stop.
We do it because we believe in seeing the world from a different perspective. Because we believe that all young people are passionate at heart, and are able to change. Because we believe that reconciliation is possible, and sometimes all we need in order to change is to do one thing that we’ve never done before.
So every Easter Fusion Australia, together with Schools in Harmony, puts together one of our boldest and most challenging programs. It’s also one of our most life-changing.
We continued our journey home with another couple of long bus trips. Yesterday we travelled from Port Augusta to Border Town, for our final night together.
Along the way we had another appearance from Disco Kitty, more amazing bus games led by some of our peer leaders and had our daily reflection space. For many of our pilgrims, their highlight of the trip has been the bus trip and having space to digest information and have space to go a bit crazy!
In our reflection space we looked at the documentary ‘Our Generation’. The Documentary looks at the 2007 investigation into Indigenous communities and the state of emergency that was called leading to interventions in Aboriginal communities. This was a confronting documentary for many of us, as we now knew these policies were hurting our friends from a number of communities that we had travelled to (in particular the Mutujulu community at Uluru who were featured in the documentary). This helped many of us realise that we are not talking about issues of the past, but ones that effect our friends now. For many, this was a hard reality to deal with and many of us found ourselves asking, what can I do?
A number of us decided it was about sharing with our friends and family what we had learnt, others felt it was time to meet the Aboriginal people from our communities at home and make spaces for them to share with us, and others are still exploring what their part is.
When we arrived at Border Town the girls gathered to exchange their beads from our women’s business time at Cooper Pedy. We had colours that represented a number of traits, our pilgrims made a coloured bead to represent who they saw themselves as, what they wanted to grow in and one for another pilgrim and how they saw them. At Border Town we reflected on the beads we had chosen for ourselves and gave the bead we had made for another pilgrim, telling them why. In response, all we could say was thankyou.
This was a profound time for our girls to recognize more of who they are.
“The beads help you see different perspectives of yourself that you didn’t know you had.” Kayla, 16.
After Dinner we walked down to a local Church of Christ (that was generously provided to us) for our closing ceremony. We shared our highlights, looked at some of the photos from the trip and heard from Jake before having a bit of a party!
Jake spoke to us about believing being more than a feeling, but an action. We were invited to wash the (VERY) dirty feet of one another as a symbol of belonging to Gods story of service.
We finished of the preceding’s off the night with a dance party (and let me tell you, there was not one person who was not dancing!). Josh led us in the ‘funky chicken’ and we all let our crazy out before respectfully heading back to camp and getting some rest for the night.
And now we are on our final bus ride home writing affirmations for one another, enjoy each others company before we depart ways and go back to our respective areas.
Here’s some reflections from some of our young people:
Rilee (15 years old) – “before the trip I was an average teenage girl who knew very little about the Aboriginal culture. On the pilgrimage I have learnt that Aboriginal people can be so forgiving, even after everything that continues to happen. Going home I will try and spread the word about the power of the pilgrimage and what Aboriginal people have gone through.
The biggest lesson I learnt on the pilgrimage was from my leaders, that I need to keep on trying and never give up. Thank you to everyone who helped out to get me here, this has been an amazing journey.”
Zac (15 years old) – “This year I was elected to be a peer leader and have the opportunity to come alongside other young people and encourage them to get the most our of the pilgrimage and make them feel comfortable.
I feel like I have a sense of belonging here and it has given me the confidence to live by my faith and not fear sharing who I am when I get home.
I would like to thank Gemma and Lauren for putting me forward as a peer leader and helping me with fundraising options. I would also like to say Thank you to all the sponsors for taking money out of your own spending’s to help me have this experience.“
Eleanor (16 years old) – “coming on the trip I really wanted to learn more about the Aboriginals, their history and our effect on their lives so I could find a way to help. Being on the pilgrimage has given me a better understanding and motivation to help others. I’ve become way more confident in myself and got better at communicating with others.
I’m so thankful for the financial support to get here, without that help I would not of been able to come.”
Hallelujah! We are headed to Perth and then home. It was a wet start to the day with rain as we packed up our gear for the last time. Lots of lost gear today so name and shame was quite big!
Our final bus aerobics with many adventures and past moves and grooves, Mentos moments that went forever with numerous acts of thoughrfulness mentioned. Name and shame as property once lost was found.
Lots of conversation and sharing of memories as we did reflection time. The boys are writing a Rap song about our trip away. Can’t wait to hear it.
We waved bye to our home for the last 3 days the bus and our legend bus drivers.
Our South Australians have made it all the way home, but their trip wasn’t a straight one.
They left Yulara on Sunday, packing up and leaving immediately after the dawn service. After a short stop to say goodbye to the Basecamp crew, they headed up north, stopping at Alice Springs. There they set up camp at a caravan park, and had a chance to relax a little and reflect on the weekend. On the first day they went swimming. Then the next day they explored Alice Springs, doing a bit of shopping, and visiting a few art galleries and museums.
So after getting to take it easy for a few days, it was back to the grind for the trip back down south: waking up at 5am and getting on the road. “We didn’t have breakfast, just got up, got dressed, packed up and left.” Says Brodie. “We stopped for breakfast later”. But it meant that they made it to Coober Pedy in time to visit a few places.
So after exploring the opal mines and doing a tour in the museum, the group headed back to the Underground Church for their last night together. A time to celebrate everything that had happened, to say thank you and have a proper farewell party. The next day it was a 9am start to see more of Coober Pedy before heading down to Kapunda.
Here’s Brodie on his experience of the Pilgrimage to Uluru:
“The experience has been amazing. It’s not every day that you get to do something like this. To me it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to do something I would never have done otherwise.
“To others I would say that you have to come. It’s amazing. I wanna tell everyone everything that happened so I can make them jealous. I’m definitely doing this next year!”
Thanks South Australia gang for being awesome!
Day 8 was the dreaded day, it was the day we left Yulara. With a day filled with travelling ahead of us, we took the time to bring order back to our bags and have a slower start to the morning.
The day was jam packed with games, music and laughter. Our night in Mala was no different with games like ‘picture whispers’ and ‘play do communication’. It was a bit of a manic night where the laughter did not stop.
We took the opportunity to have an early night so we could set off early.
Day 9 was another long day on the Bus before we arrived back in Port Augusta. On the bus we watched ‘Charlie’s Country’ and grappled with the contemporary struggles that many Aboriginal people have. It was a reminder that the struggles are not just in the part, but are a current battle for many of our Aboriginal brothers and sisters.
After setting up camp and filling our stomach’s in Port Augusta, we were met by Adnyamathanha people Aunty Lavine and Dre. They shared with us about what life is like for them and more about some of the current struggles for their people.
Here’s what Kayla (16 years old) had to say:
“For me, Charlie’s Country showed the current struggles of Aboriginal people. It was not sugar coated, it’s the reality. Often we think of the past and don’t acknowledge the current struggles. That was hard to watch.
My biggest lesson today was with Aunty Lavine and Dre. They spoke to us about their own country and what it meant to visit a different country. Learing about Acknowledgement of Country helped me understand why we say it and the importance of respecting the community that owns that land.
I had heard Acknowledgement of country before, but I had never understood why it was said and how important it is that we do say it.
As a school captain, I want more information about Aboriginal people in our community to be shared and acknowledged at school. I want to see acknowledgements before every assembly.
I am so thankful for everything I have learnt so far, I feel I now understand more about where I live.”
Up before the birds, breakfast and bus…we really missed packing tents down… NOT!
Waved goodbye to Coober Pedy and headed to Ceduna via Port Augusta.
Bus day with aerobics run by Andrew our bus driver to Black and White by Michael Jackson. Moves like the neck stratch and belly button point were interesting to say the least!
Lunch just North of Port Augusta yum! With lots and lots of rest then talking, laughing, reading, games and back to resting.
Arrived at Ceduna about 5.30pm and were able to stay at the Christian school there, such generous people. We set up mattresses in the assembly hall, had tea with soup, chops and sausages. Feed the man meat!
Played a game of speed charades! So fun with lots of laughter and squeals! Well done to the Desert Ranglers who won the night, with deft moves and gestures.
We settled for sleep and were dozing off into dreaming when the shrill, piercing scream of the security alarm went off and we had to evacuate into the cold court yard until the security guard came to disarm. Bit of excitement for the night and not happy campers…grrrr. Thankfully the security guard was quick to come and warm sleeping bags were soon full.of tired bodies again.
A really early rise, pack up tents and bus and see the sunrise from one of the look outs around Uluru.
Gemma from Mornington Peninsula shared her story, very real and moving as she shared how God had offered her a better and more beautiful way of looking at life. This added to our spiritual pilgrimage.
Our route home has changed due to rain near Warburton. We are travelling along the Stuart Highway to Port Augusta then turning right and taking the Nullarbor home to Perth.
Coober Pedy was our first stop and we went for a tour of the town. The land of underground dwellers! Where everyone is in search of the little gemstone (or not so little) opal. With a flash of color and a tour of an opal mine we came to understand what life would be like as a mole.
Sleeping underground topped off this experience and gave relief to the back with luxurious mattresses! A real treat!
Highlight of this night was our share time which started with meaningful moments then ended with everyone in stitches as people related funny moments we had shared on camp. The endorphins were released and we all went to bed with smiles on our face.
Our day started not so bright but very early, as we set out to meet all the other pilgrims for our dawn service. We arrived on the top of a sand dune to the start of a magnificent sunrise over Uluru. As we marvelled at the beauty of creation, we joined together not only reflect, but respond to the beauty of this land and it’s Creator.
After being led in reflection by our very own Gemma Bell, we sang songs that have become part of the DNA of the Pilgrimage to Uluru such as “Red Prickled Beard” and were invited to ‘sing a new song’, to know the past and change the future. This was a powerful time for our pilgrims.
We were welcomed back to camp by the smell of bacon and eggs! How spoilt are we!? After a good feed we set out for our hike through Kata Juta. We took the trail that took us to the Valley of the Winds lookout and heard more about this sacred area from Jake.
Our crew welcomed some free time after a hard hike in the heat. Some of our group took the time to catch up with their washing and have a rest, while other had a water fight and had some time to shop in Yulara.
Before long, we were heading back out to another sand dune to watch the sunset over Uluru. Some of pilgrims were even able to pick up some INCREDIBLE dot paintings from our friends from the Mutujulu community (that we met at the festival), there to sell their artwork.
After dinner, we came together to share our stories with one another: who we were before the pilgrimage, what moment on the pilgrimage changed them, what change will be made upon returning home.
The story telling continued as our young women and men gathered separately, to sleep under the stars together; a new experience for a number of our pilgrims.
Here’s what Alice (13 years old) had to say about her experience:
“Before the pilgrimage I was someone who thought I knew everything that was to be known. On the Pilgrimage, I learnt that I obviously didn’t. On the pilgrimage, there have been a series of turning points for me. Two moments that stand out to me are when Uncle Darryl spoke to us in the Coorong and hanging out with the Dusty Feet Mob in Port Augusta.
Uncle Darryl shared with us about the impact on his family from being part of the Stolen Generation and the impact on his people for the bodies of their elders to be dug up and used in museums. They are now trying to get them home.
In Port Augusta with the Dusty Feet Mob, it was when we were watching the dance and invited to be part of the ceremony for the number of elders that have passed away so recently
I’ll am different than when I came. What I have learnt on the pilgrimage has changed who I am, everything I do and say will be effected. I will be more respectful to the community to my family and to my friends.
Thank you for this opportunity.”
The South Australian Pilgrims have been on a unique journey this year, and arrived at Yulara full of anticipation.
Seeing the rock on the horizon was particularly exciting, as it was the first time for many of us. Brodie says that he just thought “Wow, it’s so massive” when seeing it up close.
When the crew arrived at the camp ground in Yulara we were greeted by our neighbours for the weekend; the Western Australian bus. “They’re a much bigger group,” says Brodie. “But they were great and welcomed us in. It didn’t feel long before it felt like we already knew them.” We got to know them even bette rafter dinner when we went over to the evening program at the Basecamp Big Top. That was a time where we heard from Basecamp about what they’ve been doing, received our Pilgrimage bandanas and heard a special performance from some visitors from Mutitjulu, the local Indigenous community.
Then Friday morning was the big one: visiting Uluru. We got up fairly early to breakfast and shower, before going out with the Western Australians to do the Mala Walk. On their bus we got to talk more, but also had to do bus aerobics. That’s apparently normal on some of the other buses, but we’re not quite so sure.
When we arrived at Uluru we got a guided tour around a section of the rock. Brodie’s favourite part was the Tjilpi Cave – a cave that looks like a wave. Brodie says: “One cool thing was seeing the old artworks. Also finding out that there’s sacred sites for women’s business. It’s interesting that guys and girls get their own areas at Uluru”.
Then Saturday we visiting Kata Tjuta, another big cultural site nearby. After that we joined the other buses for a festival at Yulara that the Anangu kids were invited to. Brodie says that the best bit was the water slide, and he enjoyed playing snakes and ladders with some of the Indigenous kids.
When asked what he learnt from the experience, Brodie says ” I actually learnt that they’re thinking of closing the climb, and I have a better idea of why it should be closed; that people actually get hurt. It was also really interesting to hear the stories and learn how Uluru was created”.
Today was the day we had all been waiting for. We finally got to see the much anticipated Uluru up close!! The excitement was building as we embarked on the Mala Walk around the base of Uluru. Our tour guide Steve (Also a member of our Basecamp team) took us through different sacred sites around the rock and shared creation stories with us.
We spoke of respecting the culture and this involved us not taking pictures in sacred sites, bypassing the climbing of the rock and the young men not laying eyes upon women’s areas. This was followed by a powerful reflection time at Kantju Gorge to connect with the land and its creator.
Our walk was followed by a trip to the cultural centre where we learnt more about the customs of the traditional owners of this land, meet some Anangu women completing dot paintings and purchase some special souvenirs.
After returning to camp to find a delicious lunch from our cook Joan, we set off across the sand dunes to the local footy ground for the festival the pilgrims hold for the local Aboriginal community. This festival was about bringing different communities together and had such a strong impact on us as pilgrims. We connected through games, face painting, nail art, dot painting, ballooning and footy. The local fire brigade also came down to provide us with a slip and slide which had the pilgrims and Anangu kids slipping and sliding together to stay cool.
After all the fun began to wind down it was time for the water ceremony, a real symbol of reconciliation between the Anangu and us as white Australians. The water ceremony was a show of hope that the past will not be repeated and we will accept the water gracefully from the traditional owners of the land with love and respect as opposed to the hatred that was used in the giving of water by our ancestors during colonisation.
Our long day was not yet over as we returned from the festival with the option of attending a prayer vigil with the WA and SA pilgrims. This was a safe space for us to reflect upon our journey and embrace our faith together.
We’ve had a very big weekend, so now’s the time to catch up on what happened while we were at Uluru!
After our Welcome ceremony and hand printing on the welcome banner we set up the tents and orientated ourselves at Yulara.
Looking around the resort finding food and souvenirs was very exciting. That night after another tasty dinner we headed to base camp tent, a giant marquee, set up at Yulara. Where we were again welcomed with smiles, cheers, games and songs. We were joined by pilgrims from South Australia. Our friends from the Mutijulu community even came to welcome us and sang a song about fire at Yulara in language. It was very special to have elders from the community join us and such an honour to be in their country.
After much laughter and merriment we left with our hot chocolate and marshmallows, not to mention the crunchy, sweet Anzac biscuits. Bedtime and sleep!
We travelled out to Uluru from the camp site to see the rock today!
Our guide joined us on the bus and we walked the Mala Walk this was tremendously moving and informative. As Steve (our guide) talked the stories of the Anangu and some of their traditions. He reminded us that what he was telling was only the tip of the iceberg of the Tjurkupa (law, creation period). We were all interested in the stories and there were many questions asked to clarify our knowledge! This ended at the Kantju Gorge with a quiet contemplation time to think about the stories we had heard. To listen to the bush, using all our senses. To absorb a sense of place and identity. A beautiful time, it was like being in a cathedral.
Some time at the Cultural Centre watching dot paintings by the women and children of the community, reading information about the land and culture and signing the ‘I did not climb’ book filled the time before another tasty lunch.
The afternoon bought an opportunity to go with an Anangu lady and hunt some honey ants. Time spent walking in the bush, digging holes and watching a professional honey anter do her thing. A fire made before hand by the students roasted sweet potatoe and roo tail. Unfortunately this took too long and needed more cooking before eating. The rest of us stayed at camp to rest, wash and chill out.
Tonight saw the arrival of the pilgrims from Victoria and we were off to the tent for a welcome, games and songs. Lots of fun and noise!
The evening ended on hot chocolate and anzac biscuits, with the hum of conversation and new friendships struck. Sensational community!
A little sleep in today. Some of us went on the base walk or Mutitjulu Walk. Others did washing and swam in the resorts pool, quite a surprise to resort guests to see smelly student campers coming to share their pool. It was a refreshing morning.(The pool at the campsite was closed for maintenance.)
In the afternoon we participated in a community festival held at Yulara School. With circus activities, face painting, dot painting balloon sculpting and group games. A wonderful friendly time of fun and fellowship. Ending in a water ceremony that Calli- Rose, and her brothers David and Lykiam participated in. This was to wash away the past and usher in a new future. Wonderful times!
There was a prayer vigil held tonight and all students participated for the first session as it was optional for everyone. Some powerful things happened as people prayed for the first time and had an opportunity to respond to God in various ways.
This was a late night with an early rise in the morning.