Our recent Camping on Country trip to Jilkmingaan was a success with local Organisations Jilkmingaan Community Aboriginal Corporation (JCAC) and Sunrise Health taking the lead with funding and facilitation. This was our first camp in Jilkmingaan but discussions are already underway for more camps.
This was our first family camp that saw 30 people from 8 family groups arrive at the local camp spot ‘Jungle’ on the Roper River.
Ernie Dingo led the yarning circles and our normal health checks were replaced with Covid19 immunisations with a quick trip into town to achieve this outcome.
Participants acknowledged that the connection with the land was a spiritual one that they did not often have a chance to experience. Camping on Country provided an impetus and the environment for them to be able to do this.
‘Spiritually, man, just being in the bush connects me anyway…. I think that’s been going off every now and then by myself and just finding a good space and connecting spiritually. So that [the camp] allowed me to create that space. If I was at work or in community, I don’t seem to do that as often.’
Themes of safety, comfort, peace, healing, and calmness were mentioned by many participants and Elders. Participating in traditional activities like fishing, hunting, and yarning on Country were linked to a sense of relief and belonging.
There was an acknowledgement from Elders that it was challenging to engage with the younger men in the towns. They felt that they were able to connect with them more on Country where there were fewer distractions.
‘They don’t listen [in town]. That’s why we need to bring them out here and talk to them… while they are out here and they learn a lot.’
Elders felt that it was essential for them to be able to engage with the younger men on Country, or there would be a risk of the younger men losing their culture.
The Elders felt that the younger men would benefit from being at the camp and be able to return to the community in a happier state. In addition to this there were benefits for the Elders in that they felt appreciated by their community.
Elders also felt that learning could be bi-directional between both older and younger men who participated in the camps as some younger people who had previously had opportunities for connection to culture could also share their experiences and skills.
The Elders enjoyed the activities themselves and were engaged with the program agenda. Many of the respondents gave the program a 10/10 rating and felt that the only improvements could be more camps and more participants.
One Elder felt that they would be able to engage more with the younger Aboriginal men after the camp and encourage more to participate in the next camp.
‘And we’ll have to be talking to them [young Aboriginal men] after this camp. We’re going to keep talking to them about coming out. We’re going to talk about where’s our next main camp is going to be. Hopefully, we’ll try and keep these camps going. Just keep it going.’