Indigenous Australians isolated from the mainland on Tiwi Islands will be sharing their traditions and faith with other World Youth Day pilgrims after being partnered by three Sydney Catholic schools to attend the massive event.
The 13 young people and three elders from the remote community of Nguiu will be accommodated and have their registrations fees and airfares paid by Clancy Catholic College, West Hoxton, Holy Spirit Primary, Carnes Hill and St Catherine of Siena Primary, Prestons.
Clancy Catholic College teacher Tamara Amatto (pictured with Tiwi Island pilgrims) says the schools have raised $7500 in just three months after one fundraiser event at each school.
The three schools have also received donations from the Tiwi Land Council, Matilda Minerals in the Northern Territory and the local club and shop in Nguiu, to help them reach their $20,000 target to share the WYD08 experience with their neighbours.
One of the 16 Tiwi pilgrims, Chrystal Johnson, says she is "absolutely excited" to meet the Pope.
"I hope to use the experience to learn more about my faith and help my community grow in the faith too."
WYD08 Project Officer Stephen Mahoney says 139 Catholic schools in Sydney have already engaged with remote indigenous communities in Broome, Darwin, Alice Springs Papua New Guinea, East Timor, Fiji and the Solomon Islands as part of the Pilgrim Partnership and Support Program (PPSP).
Launched last May, PPSP scheme is aimed at ensuring as many people as possible from Oceanic and Australian indigenous communities take part in the world's largest youth event.
Around 3,500 Oceanic pilgrims are already expected to attend WYD08, but organisers are calling for further assistance from Host Partners in Australia and New Zealand to help boost this figure to more than 6,000 from 19 countries before the event in July.
"It's important to ensure the biggest-ever representation of pilgrims from these remote indigenous communities. This is the first time that the Oceania region has hosted World Youth Day," he said.