While many school students and teachers were enjoying their recent school holiday, a group of teachers and students from St Mary’s Campus, All Saints College Maitland was immersed in a very different experience in the remote Aboriginal community of Warralong in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.
Located in the north of WA between the Kimberly and Gascoyne regions, Warralong is home to the Nyangumarta and Mardu people from Strelley, Warralong and Port Hedland communities.
The Indigenous Immersion Program, organised by Catholic Mission and St Mary’s teaching staff, gave those involved an authentic Aboriginal lifestyle experience at the Strelley Community School, Warralong. Catholic Mission facilitator and Team Leader, Michael Gallaway, accompanied teachers Bronwyn Rayner, Debbie Sivyer and Helen Kearney and 11 students to the remote school for their 10 day mission.
The Strelley Community School values and promotes the cultural heritage of its students, and because students speak English only as their second language, all classrooms have at least one Indigenous teacher’s assistant at all times.
Nyangumarta is the target language of the school's LOTE (Language other than English) program and an extensive collection of Nyangumarta resources has been created and developed over the years by community members, language specialists for the teaching of Nyangumarta.
The Warralong Mob, as they were known, were wonderful hosts and very proud to share their culture and show off their country, which includes the end of the Rabbit Proof Fence, at Cape Keraudren. Weekends were spent exploring the local area with excursions to Cape Keraudren, Mulley Cattle Station, Marble Bar and a sacred Aboriginal rock art site near Warralong.
During the school week students and staff worked alongside Strelley School staff assisting in numerous tasks. On a typical school day students were up at 6.15am to help prepare breakfast for the Aboriginal children. After serving breakfast, they helped children with morning hygiene and reading activities before school. Mornings were spent with Strelley teachers helping out with literacy and numeracy programs, and afternoons were spent with Aboriginal students participating in the school’s drama program. Socialising and playing sport after school fostered friendship between the Warralong Mob and the St Mary’s Mob.
A forgotten community provides teachers with a real lesson (Aurora)