Our immersion experience
I was lucky enough to be a part of the Catholic Mission Warralong Immersion in 2014. Within a few days of arriving in Warralong we discovered that a local politician was visiting to listen to the concerns of the community, this became known as the protest meeting.
This was a striking time for me during the immersion as I was shocked by the severity of the issues the elders of the community were describing, which we could also see for ourselves.
These problems include lack of vital services such as water, electricity and gas, as well as issues concerning garbage collection and housing.
Children from the school had illustrated their family home, with people seemingly packed in like sardines. The children also held signs, one of which was captioned “Slaves on our own land”.
This protest meeting, among other special moments from the immersion, was eye opening. It was hard to believe that we were still in Australia.
While the state of infrastructure and the support for Warralong was (and still is) very poor, the trip was very powerful in a positive way. The children we interacted with were always smiling and grateful. Their connection with one another and the land was humbling to witness.
The Warralong immersion instilled in me a greater sense of gratitude and appreciation. I also felt equipped with the knowledge I needed to help tackle the stigma indigenous people face and help improve their circumstances and opportunities. I am visiting Warralong again this winter with St Francis Xavier College as an ambassador and mentor for the college students. – Andrew Nolan
In many ways, my immersion trip to the remote indigenous community of Warralong changed my life. Social justice and indigenous issues have long been important to me, but I had always felt quite detached from the problems faced by our indigenous brothers and sisters. Going to Warralong was like nothing I had done or experienced before.
One of the things that struck me was the material poverty. I say material poverty only because the community was so rich in culture and tradition.
I had never been exposed to such poverty and, as a 16-year-old, I found it pretty confronting. Talking to the teachers at the school in the community and attending a protest gave me an insight into how some of the First Australians live.
Another thing that has really stuck with me was the racism that I witnessed. It wasn’t just casual racism, which was quite shocking to me. I remember in a shop, the cashier was incredibly condescending and rude to a boy not much younger than me and speaking to him in such a manner that would not have been the case if he was white.
Warralong and its people have left their mark on me and I came home with a re-energised passion for social justice and human rights, as well as a new perspective. I got so much out of my experience and I feel so fortunate to have had it. – Chloe Sullivan