An Internship in the Sunshine

For five glorious weeks during the recent Winter break, I volunteered as an Aurora intern in the tropics of Far North Queensland. As a program primarily run for university students, the ‘Aurora Native Title Internship’ program offers internships with various organisations that focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs. Internships are offered nationwide, and I was lucky enough to be placed in Cairns with the Cape York Institute (CYI). p 1

Archer Point in Cape York, home to the Yuku-Baja-Muliku Rangers

CYI is an Indigenous-owned and run organisation that helps Indigenous communities in Cape York in three main areas: welfare reform; policy and research; and leadership. During my internship, I worked on policy and research with the Environment and Natural Resource Management team. For the first week or so, I did research for an Indigenous business side forum in Cairns that was being run as part of the 2014 G20 Conference. Following that, I was given a fascinating project to focus on regarding Indigenous land and sea ranger programs. p 2

Heading out on Country with Juunjuwarra Rangers for a chainsaw training camp

Indigenous ranger programs offer tangible social, cultural and environmental benefits to Traditional Owners in Cape York. With many Indigenous groups having recently reclaimed their land through native title, ranger work is a chance to get out on Country and protect their spiritual heartland. Employment in these programs offer economic stability for rangers and their families. Traditional Owners are also best placed to offer environmental outcomes, given their detailed knowledge of their own Country and use of traditional land and sea management practices in conjunction with modern science. Whilst most of my time was spent in the office doing research and writing up a paper on the topic, I was incredibly grateful for the opportunity to visit Indigenous communities in Cape York. Through community and ranger consultations, I could see the practical impact of my research and gather first-hand evidence on the effectiveness of ranger programs. I was very humbled to be welcomed so warmly onto traditional land and learn about different clans’ cultural connection to their land. p 3

Patient in the Yuku-Baja-Muliku Ranger’s Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre

 During my trip, I spent three days with the Yuku-Baja-Muliku Rangers on their Country at Archer Point and Annan River and at their office in Cooktown. Their dedication to the program and to ensuring a sustainable future for their land was inspirational. Amongst their many projects, they have set up a Junior Ranger program in the local schools to teach children about caring for the environment as well as traditional cultural practices. This is a project in both environmental management and reconciliation, with Indigenous and non-Indigenous children participating in the program and taking their lessons home to their parents. For the final few days of my trip, I went bush camping with the Juunjuwarra Rangers on a chainsaw training course. The rangers showed me their Country, swapped stories by the campfire and jokingly told me about a crocodile called Esme that lived nearby who liked interns. After three days in the bush without running water or electricity, the only reason that I was glad to return to Cairns was for a hot shower and clean clothes.

Exploring the local fruit markets in Cairns with friends from my share house

Exploring the local fruit markets in Cairns with friends from my share house

Weekends were also packed full of exciting experiences, whether it was snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef, hiking around World Heritage national parks or tasting exotic tropical fruits in the local fruit markets. I met so many wonderful people that made my time in Cairns extra special, including both housemates in my share house and other Aurora interns around town. We enthusiastically joined in on the Cairns Ukulele Festival (yes, a ukulele festival) for a world-record ukulele attempt and free aquatic zumba classes on the Esplanade (Cairns’ version of a beach). As most of my share house friends were overseas travellers, we even cooked up an “authentic” Aussie BBQ with camel burgers and kangaroo sausages. My Aurora internship was an absolutely phenomenal experience. I learnt lots about Indigenous ranger programs, developed new skills to use in the workplace and loved every moment. I would encourage all of you to look into applying for Aurora over this coming summer break, as it has been one of the most valuable experiences of my university life.

By Jennifer Tridgell, a third year Arts/Law student at Macquarie University  

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Helicopter ride over the stunning Great Barrier Reef

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This is going to be deadly…

It’s taken almost a year but I feel like I can finally breathe again!! That’s how long it’s taken to develop and produce a marketing campaign aimed at tackling mental health issues in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth.

Okay, let me start from the beginning. Last August I successfully applied to be a part of headspace’s new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health campaign. This campaign is the first of its kind – gathering 12 young Indigenous people from different communities all around Australia to create a campaign which will connect with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth, and encourage them to contact headspace and start working on the issues which are affecting their mental health and wellbeing.

For those of you who don’t know, headspace is a free, confidential mental health service for all people aged between 12-25 which offers counselling and GP services alongside a range of other educational and therapeutic services with the aim of tackling mental health issues at an earlier stage compared to similar organisations. The group’s first meeting was in October last year and was a jam-packed week of workshops, ice-breaker activities, cultural exercises and focus groups. We designed the key elements of the campaign during that week and given that I haven’t studied marketing before it was difficult for me personally to understand how a successful marketing campaign works and how best to portray the kind of message we wanted to send in a way that would be accessible to people from a diverse range of Indigenous communities whether they’re urban, rural or remote.

Over the next few months headspace and Gilimbaa, an Indigenous advertising agency, used our ideas to create this ground-breaking campaign. The entire group then met up again in June to finalise the merchandise and take a final look at all the different elements of the campaign.

Composition of the group

The YarnSafe youth advisory council is made up of a diverse group of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women from all over Australia – Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Elcho Island in Arnhem Land, Darwin and Broome. It was very important to headspace that this campaign connects with all Indigenous youth and as such they needed representatives from diverse communities and groups. As diverse as we are, we all have one thing in common: a passion for improving the mental health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

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The YarnSafe group last year in Melbourne

Elements of our campaign

We designed every part of the campaign and there is a piece of every one of us in there, each with a unique story to tell. You might not be able to tell but the posters below are the result of many months of hard work with constant to-ing and fro-ing, teleconferencing and Facebooking back and forth to make sure that its exactly the way we want it to be.

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Here are some examples of the campaign posters and overall concept our group developed which will be distributed all around Australia in various formats

YarnSafe and No Shame

People who are having a difficult time in their lives can experience a lot of shame talking about it with others. That’s where the idea of ‘YarnSafe’ came about. This is part of the main tagline you can see in the posters above: HEADSPACE – YOUR SPACE – YARN SAFE. This is the overarching concept of the campaign and the main message that we are trying to convey.  To have a yarn is to have a chat or a talk and through the word ‘YarnSafe’ we hope to convey to all other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people that headspace is a safe place to talk about everything that’s going on in their lives, big or small either in person, online or over the phone. In this way we also hope to reduce the shame and stigma surrounding mental health which would allow them to feel more comfortable talking about problems and issues in their lives.  This can be seen from the second tagline: NO SHAME IN TALKING IT OUT.

Life mess

Based on people in the group sharing their experiences with mental health and everything which affects it, we came to the realisation that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a lot going on in their lives such as racism, the effects of the Stolen Generation, the pressure of being in a modern society with an ancient culture – the list goes on and on.

The ‘life mess’ part of the campaign stemmed from this idea. It is a collection of drawings, words, and phrases from the YarnSafe group which surround the people in all 27 campaign posters (3 of which are above). They symbolize all the mess and confusion which is going on in the lives of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. For this element, everyone in the group wrote down and drew things that were going on in their lives or that they wanted to portray to others and this was translated into the ‘life mess’ which makes up the background of all campaign material and merchandise. I cringe a little when I see some of my writing because it feels like there’s a little part of me broadcast to the world but I know that it’s absolutely necessary.

Songline

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Our songline

The song line runs through all printed campaign material (such as in the posters above) as well as all merchandise and is an important element in our final design. Loosely, it represents a journey and a story – in this case it’s supposed to represent the different states, territories and communities of Australia. It brings a cultural element to the campaign which is, of course, very important to all Indigenous people, both young and old alike.

 

An example of the merchandise we designed

An example of the merchandise we designed

The National Launch!

During the entire time we were developing the campaign we weren’t supposed to talk about the campaign for fear we’d give it away. This is why I was looking forward to the national launch which happened last week on the 11th of September. We had a short window of time to book everything and organise a kickass event to get the ball rolling. Then, a few weeks ago I got a message asking me to be the emcee for the launch! I agreed, not fully aware of the ramifications of speaking in front of 150 people whilst being filmed by the ABC, NITV and various other media outlets.

In the lead up there was lots of last minute scrambling – performers had to be booked, the venue confirmed (it was held at the National Melbourne Museum just outside the Bunjilaka exhibit), the invites designed, and all the other little details that make a huge difference on the day. Somehow though it all came together and I will always remember it as a great day spent with the best group of people: passionate, committed and leaders in their communities. I’m honoured to be one of them.

My next goal for this campaign is to ensure there’s an awesome local launch party at Mount Druitt in Sydney. It’s happening on the 9 October 2014 from 4:30pm – 7:30pm at Dawson Mall, Mount Druitt. If it’s anything like the national launch it’s going to be an amazing event and is a crucial part of the campaign I’m honoured to be a part of.

Some of the members of the YarnSafe Youth Advisory Council at the national launch in Melbourne. I’m the one on the far right.

Some of the members of the YarnSafe Youth Advisory Council at the national launch in Melbourne. I’m the one on the far right.

By Georgina Rullis

Indigenous Cadet for the Global Leadership Program and YarnSafe Youth Advisory Council Member

All photos courtesy of headspace

 

Check out the media releases of the national campaign launch:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dw7RIZ77x7E&feature=youtu.be

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dw7RIZ77x7E&feature=youtu.be

 

AND for all of you mob out there:

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Lens on Korea

You live and you learn; it’s a common expression that holds the idea that the older you get, the more you know. I find travelling to be the pinnacle of this expression: exploring and viewing the world in a way that only boots on the ground and immersion into a society can reveal.

Looking back on my brief time at Sookmyung and Seoul, nothing but insight exists. How dynamic Seoul is! The apparent wit and work ethic of its people, the innovation of its technology, the beautiful mountains of Bukhansan, parks, rivers, museums of war and history. Even the public transport system left me in a state of awe every time I boarded at Sookmyung station!

Picture1My impression extends even to the selection of units available to study. Through this, I have started to question things that I have never questioned before. Philosophy teaches you to challenge authority, stand your ground, and hold your convictions tightly in search of a sometimes unattainable truth. In gaining a blue belt in Taekwondo with my classmates, it never really felt like study, but classes in flowing strike of strength, memory and focus. This wouldn’t have been possible without Prof. Kreitmair and Master Lee.

Picture2The student’s we befriended, shopped with us, played mud fights with us, ate patbingsu with us, introduced me to the big wide world of Green tea matcha, and recommended places to explore while continuing to live their own daily lives. It is an unrivalled level of hospitality that will remain with us for years to come!

pic9Of course all of these great successes and achievements in the fabric of Korean society come at a cost. My classmates spoke of a more difficult domestic life of societal competition, the pressures of success and appearance, and trepidation in maintaining one’s reputation amongst peers. The artificiality in general politeness and friendships were also raised, which were reflected in the country’s abnormally high suicide rate and much publicised psychological problems associated with human interaction.

But of any nation I have visited, I believe that their tenacity will have the resolve to get through anything. For a nation wracked with tragedy, it has a core of steel, a heart of gold and the minds of geniuses.

I implore everyone to take advantage of this amazing opportunity that the GLP offers, in my experience there really isn’t anything quite like it.

I was also lucky enough to have visited the other side, the seldomly explored territory of North Korea. It turned out to be one of the most fascinating places that I have ever visited, for entirely unexpected reasons.

The first impression of Pyongyang isn’t one of a grey, lifeless metropolis – but one of greenery. The rolling hills, parks, rivers and grasslands adorn the sky scrapers (yes they do exist there) in a very aesthetically harmonious appearance. In no other city are you blind to the influences of the West, or even modernisation past the 60’s even – But here.

People lead simply lives, without phones, the constant hunger for connectivity that infects our youth. There are no Mcdonalds, Coca-Cola sold on every street corner all the youth are running around outside with remarkable joy, water parks, extra-curricular games like soccer and piano are all embraced in place of internet cafes and shopping centres.pic2

That isn’t to say that what the media says is untrue- in studying a Law degree with a major in Social Justice great streaks of poverty were apparent just outside the capital. Workers, unable to afford lawnmowers, cut grass with simple hand-scissors for hours on end. Vehicles were so expensive that the roads were frequently occupied singularly by our tour bus, and the odd bicycle. The stature of the people were remarkably short and frail, due to the malnutrition of their earlier years.

It all culminates in a country so uniquely diverse, literally cut in half along the border, that leaves one to truly appreciate even the smallest glint in the history and grandeur of the Korean people.

Sookmyung International Summer School

Reflecting back on my experience, I can say my time at Sookmyung International Summer School (SISS) was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity, which I experienced alongside exchange students from America, the Netherlands, Taiwan and China.

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I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to travel to Korea during semester break with 3 other Macquarie students. At Sookmyung University, I decided to take up traditional subjects such as ‘Korean Language for foreigners’ and Taekwondo. I definitely underestimated the intensiveness of these classes, with 6 hours of class each day. However within such a short period of time I was able to read the Korean alphabet, greet people, order at restaurants and even improved my fitness levels. I tried to maximise every opportunity in Korea and explored the city straight after class everyday, making sure to pack my itinerary to see Namsan Tower, the National Museum, The War Memorial and endless shopping districts. The National Museum certainly had a sense of tranquility and peacefulness which I much appreciated amidst the busy Seoul city.

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There was quite a few things that I did for the first time in Seoul; visiting a dog café and trying Patbingsu (Shaved ice dessert). The humid weather only gave me more reasons to treat myself, which I certainly abused.

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My personal highlights from the trip would definitely having to be hiking at Bukhansan, the highest mountain in Seoul; traveling to the coastal city of Busan, visiting the DMZ, and, of course, enjoying the amazing food that Korea has to offer. Visiting the DMZ on my birthday was a truly memorable experience; with the harsh reality that reunification may never occur. It amazing to note how resilient South Koreans are with the ability to bounce back after such tragedy and loss, only a mere 60 years ago. South Korea has really come a long way with their technology and efficiency, from the tall modern buildings to their flawless subway system.

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I was lucky enough to take a weekend trip with friends to Busan only bringing a backpack with me. We definitely faced challenges along the way with us arriving in Busan, to no accommodation at 1am in the morning. Despite this set back we managed to find a place after much sign language and promised to make the most out of this trip. The vast amount of activities we had planned included visiting the famous fish market, a seaside temple, a culture village, which was my personal favourite, and visiting the largest shopping centre in the world!

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I want to thank my buddy and the people at Sookmyung for their hospitality and kindness. This trip has certainly taught me to enjoy life and take things as it comes. As typical as it sounds, this trip has really widened my perspective of international travel and I hope to visit Korea sometime in the near future with the possibility of me one day working there. For anyone who has never thought of South Korea as an interesting place to visit, I can assure you, this experience will change your perception completely. I cannot express how grateful I am to the GLP for sending me on this trip and I truly recommend everyone take part in this remarkable opportunity. There are simply no words to describe the amazing memories I have made and the new friendships I have forged and I hope to be back soon.

 

Amy Zhang

 

*All photos courtesy of Amy Zhang