Last week, Year 12 VET Community Services students, along with staff Sue Pickles, Sally Fleming and Peter Burns, spent three days in Warrnambool learning about Aboriginal culture and meeting with members of the local Indigenous community.

On arrival, they were welcomed to the Tower Hill Volcano by koalas, emus and wallabies and enjoyed a bush tucker dinner which included BBQ kangaroo steaks.

The next day, BSSC students were given a traditional welcome by Aboriginal students at Warrnambool Secondary College; they met with elders in the Koori Court and learned about the court’s role and participated in a workshop with artist Tracey Roach, the niece of musician Archie Roach. Tracey shared her story of being removed from her family as a baby and reuniting with them as an adult.

Our students absorbed more local aboriginal culture by listening to traditional music, learning a lullaby in the local language and observing wood carving techniques passed down through generations.

On the way back to Bendigo they visited the Framlingham Aboriginal Mission where Lennie Clarke explained what life was like on the mission and the challenges for his community today.

The real power of this experience was the firsthand testimonies that were generously shared with our students. On a number of occasions, they were confronted by some really upsetting and disturbing truths. Students will continue to be confronted by these experiences as they work to understand how their new knowledge will influence their own roles in Australian society.

To be an effective worker in the community services industry, students need to appreciate that many Aboriginal people are still discriminated and oppressed members of our society. Students need to understand these issues to ensure that they can implement culturally safe and inclusive practices in their community service work.