Mount Alvernia College Principal experiences a ‘cultural immersion’ in FNQ

Article by Laura Harvey
Bond University / 07 September 2018

Mount Alvernia College Principal, Dr Kerrie Tuite, has gone more than the ‘extra mile’ to look for ways that her students can participate in the reconciliation process: She recently travelled more than 2500kms for a four-day ‘cultural immersion’ in the remote Lockhart River Aboriginal community.

Dr Tuite was part of a group of 17 educators and corporate executives who travelled to far north Queensland for Bond University’s award-winning Yarning Up experience. The Alliance has been involved with Yarning Up since its inception in 2014 and this year provided financial assistance to the member principals.

“If reconciliation is going to succeed, we have to remember our foundation,” she said.

“The Indigenous people were here thousands of years before the white settlers arrived. They have a long history, a thriving culture and rich traditions that they are willing to share with us.

“Just imagine what we can achieve as a country if we accept the generosity of that gift and work together.”

The four-day Yarning Up itinerary included visits to Lockhart State School, the Puuya Foundation’s early childhood centre, the Lockhart River Arts Centre, the women’s shelter, the police station and the health clinic.

“I saw lots of opportunities for our Mount Alvernia girls to team up with Lockhart River students and organisations on some long-term projects,” said Dr Tuite.

“I’ve already had some discussion with the Lockhart State School Principal about a gardening project – drawing on Mount Alvernia’s experience with growing sustainable produce.

“I also saw a real need for emergency supplies for women seeking help at the Lockhart women’s shelter that we may be able to investigate.

“These are the sorts of projects that would give our girls a chance to connect with women and children in a remote community, in order to gain a deeper understanding that life can be very different for people in other parts of Australia and to appreciate what true reconciliation involves.”

Bond University’s annual Yarning Up experience has been operating since 2014; alternating remote community visits between Lockhart River and the Torres Strait Islands.

“The initial concept of Yarning Up was to give School Principals a first-hand experience of life in remote Indigenous communities so they could better understand the unique challenges students face when they transition to large secondary schools in metropolitan areas,” said Yarning Up co-host, Narelle Urquhart, who serves as Bond University’s Indigenous Cultural Support Officer.

“The concept has gradually evolved to include a number of corporate representatives, so we can bring a strong entrepreneurial element to a community that is looking for ways to build capacity and create employment opportunities.

“This year, we were thrilled to learn that one of the Lockhart River school-leavers is now in the second year of her Bachelor of Nursing. When she completes her degree next year, she will become one of the first Lockhart River residents to graduate from university.

“We were also particularly encouraged to see the positive changes happening in Lockhart River since Bond University first visited in 2014, with new houses being built by local people and new locally-owned businesses now operating – some of which have been mentored and financially supported by our previous Yarning Up corporate participants.”

Yarning Up is a previous winner of the Queensland Premier’s Reconciliation Award and the ATEM/Campus Review Award for Excellence in Community Engagement. Over the past 5 years, more than 40 educators and corporate executives have experienced life in Lockhart River or the Torres Strait Islands, with a number of participants visiting both communities.