Each year, 24 Year 11 students and six staff members from Luther College in Melbourne travel to Alice Springs to engage with the student community at Yirara College.
Though it is a school trip, the word ‘trip’ doesn’t properly reflect what it is. A ‘trip’ can too easily reflect that it is simply a one-off event or a tick-the-box experience for the individual. Rather, the time our students spend at Yirara is a journey – to learn and grow through the many conversations and experiences they have.
Students from two different backgrounds and experiences come together for a couple of days and have the chance to listen, talk and participate in activities.
One activity is working with some of the Yirara students and artist Ruth Cook, a former student of Yirara. It is a chance for our students to work with a gifted artist and to learn about the rich history of the Indigenous culture through art. Students usually create their own story through their painting, but this time they used Indigenous symbols to communicate what the artwork is saying.
They learn the importance of community from the Indigenous perspective and learn that, though our life experiences can be different, the similarities in what both communities need and want far outweigh the differences.
Throughout Scripture, we read of the power of community. Today, communities are just as important and a vital aspect of any demographic. But it is very easy within our everyday lives to connect only with those from within our community or with those immediately around us. This means that we can miss out on valuable connections with others, which ultimately results in losing opportunities for our lives to be enriched by being challenged, encouraged and taught about other worldviews.
Joining with the Yirara community is invaluable for our students, and it is our hope and prayer that it is the same for Yirara. The opportunity for two communities of students to relate, with a common purpose to grow together, is one that should never be taken for granted. It helps us all to better see and, more importantly, live out the challenge that Jesus gave us all – to be united as one, just as he and the Father are.
Michael Bradshaw is a teacher at Luther College, Croydon, Victoria.