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In Celebrating NAIDOC Week, we look at the unique Outdoor Cultural Immersion programs taking place in the Northern Territory. The Outdoor Education Group (OEG) has partnered with the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation (GAC) to deliver Outdoor Cultural Immersion programs on Mirarr country in the Kakadu National Park. Together, OEG and GAC employ a full-time Outdoor Educational consultant. With a placement in Jabiru, Ben Lee collaborates with the Jabiru Area School, Djidbidjidbi Residential College and Djurrubu Rangers to develop and coordinate outdoor wilderness programs within the locales of Jabiru and upon the Mirarr country of the Brockman Plateau.

This year students and staff from schools across New South Wales and Victoria will have the opportunity to take part in these enriching experiences. Participants will walk with Djurrubu Rangers, Jabiru Area School Ranger Trainees through the lands of the Mirarr people, delving into a landscape that has been the traditional lands of the Mirarr people for over 65,000 years. Expertly led by OEG Outdoor Learning Facilitator Ben Newham and a team of OEG Group Leaders, participants will experience the remarkable rock art created by generations of the Mirarr people, telling the stories of their history and lore. Walking upon the stone, sand and dirt of a landscape that can only be described as awe-inspiring, will capture the heart and mind of all who experience.

Participants will not only experience the wilderness surrounds of the country but also take part in many cultural immersive activities. Working in conjunction with the Jabiru Area School’s (JAS) experiential learning framework based around the seasons of Kakadu, participants will learn alongside JAS students the many facets of living in this remote environment. Learning the ways of the Indigenous people of the country, utilising the native flora and fauna as means of survival – from the season of the Kakadu plum to the medicinal qualities of the green ants. Participants will come face to face with 65,000 years of Indigenous culture and discover the significance of the area Gaining hands-on insight from archaeologists by taking part in key archaeological projects, with this year’s Djenj Fish Project. The project teaches students and the Djurrubu rangers about the fish of Kakadu and water research techniques. Aiming to develop employment opportunities; provide occasions for Mirarr Elders to share traditional knowledge with students and researchers; and for all to work together towards sustainable, long-lasting, positive benefits.

Recently a group of teachers had the opportunity to experience one of these programs. Hiking upon the Brockman Plateau with Djurrubu Rangers and Ranger Trainees, the teachers were able to delve into the rich history and traditional stories of the landscape and all that it provided. The group were also invited to share an experience with teachers, archaeologists and Mirarr Elders in visiting the famous Madjedbebe sandstone rock shelter. The archaeological excavations at this site have led archaeologists to suggest that Madjedbebe was first occupied by humans around 65,000 years ago, indicating it is the oldest known site showing the presence of humans in Australia. The group spoke of the positive impact and the long-lasting impression these programs will inspire.

Throughout the rest of term three this year, more schools will take part in programs like these. Participating and learning with Mirarr people, developing knowledge and acting upon the voices that connect to country, acknowledging the truth of the past and looking towards a shared future.

OEG would like take this opportunity to thank the Mirarr people for their ongoing support and permission to walk upon their country.

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