VET Community Services travelled to the Barmah Lakes and Shepparton areas last week to hear the stories and history of the local Aboriginal people and visit important cultural sites.

At the Barmah Lakes students and staff received a traditional Welcome to Country from Yorta Yorta Dja Dja Wurrung man Mick Bourke and took part in a Smoking Ceremony. Mick shared stories about what life was like for the Yorta Yorta people – including aspects of life such as diet, language, and how they cared for their country.

After a guided walk along the river, that highlighted the environmental impact of colonisation, students enjoyed a workshop with Mick’s partner Kayla, learning how to make necklaces and bracelets with natural materials including emu feathers, reeds and gum nuts… a real highlight for many students.

A visit to the Cummeragunja mission school provided students with a look at what the educational experience was like for Aboriginal young people.

Day two of the camp saw students visit Bangerang Cultural Centre in Shepparton. The centre houses an important collection of artifacts and artworks from Aboriginal communities across Australia, while focusing on local communities of the Murray and Goulburn Valleys.

A visit to the Rumbalarra Reserve allowed students to step inside a typical Aboriginal Welfare Board concrete house that was home for many Aboriginal people up until the late 1960’s.

The camp was an incredible, often confronting, experience for students, enhancing not only their studies in Community Services, but their growth as young people.

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