This Place

12 November 2020

“The land is my mother. Like a human mother, the land gives us protection, enjoyment and provides our needs – economic, social and religious. We have a human relationship with the land: Mother, daughter, son. When the land is taken from us or destroyed, we feel hurt because we belong to the land and we are part of it.” – Djinyini Gondarra

I’m writing this newsletter piece as I cross the Great Dividing Range, in a coach with 25 Class 6 students, their teacher Cathy, Hadiah (one of our Outdoor Education sessional staff) and our bus driver Mal! Excitement and spirits are high as we follow the well-travelled road towards Bathurst, en route to Kamilaroi, Wiradjuri and the Weilwan Country – the Warrumbungles! But it is the stop at Wentworth Falls Lake that is sitting with me right now.

Wentworth Falls Lake was created in 1878 by damming Jamieson Creek to store water for the steam railway. In 2020, it is a picturesque picnic spot and has excellent facilities. Functional, clean, and natural but - tame. As I stood, watching the children stretch their legs, I experienced the familiar deep knowing that strikes me on every program; that we must continue to take the children in our charge into wild places. By the time Thursday comes, and the coach pulls into McClelland St, Willoughby, we will have spent some time in the ‘wilderness’, and the children will be quieter, calmer, and more settled into their natural rhythms. In the absence of the stimulation of Sydney’s business, they will have come back to themselves.

As with most elements of a Glenaeon education, Outdoor Education is much more than it says on the label!   By the end of a 13-year journey, our students can complete a self-sustained 48-hour solo camp; they will have been on many incredible adventures - up mountains, down rivers, and into foreign lands; mostly compulsory and for the really keen ones, some extras. All of this will have happened in the wilderness of ‘nature’s classroom’. And yet, Outdoor Education is so much more than adventures. For me, it is about conveying, through lived experience in wild places, a deep knowing and belonging perfectly summed up by Craig Foster in the incredible documentary ‘My Octopus Teacher.”

“What she taught me was to feel... that you’re part of this place, not a visitor.”

On this Class 6 program, we begin to build the habits, values and attitudes that will give every student the best chance of experiencing a ‘human relationship with the land’ for themselves. It is an experience impossible to have in the city, with the hum of traffic, and the schedule and stress of our modern lives. 

This week, on country that has been inhabited for millennia by stargazers, we will look up at the stars in wonder, and we will feel ‘part of this place’.