Kowanyama Camp Story

Senior Olkola and Kowanyama traditional owners and men and youth gathered on country at Shelfo Crossing near Kowanyama to participate in cultural and health activities over the 5 days

Camping on Country is a national remote Aboriginal men’s health and culture program headed by our Chairman Ernie Dingo.

One of the highlights was the attendance of Olkola man Rhonderson who spent his first night on his own country and was welcomed and blessed back on country and ochred up by Michael Yam. This was a moving and significant moment made possible by his care worker Asher Meadows and the Life Without Barriers team who ensure Indigenous people with a disability can live culturally rich and connected lives by attending events like this.

22 men and 5 youth attended over the five days and much time was spent making traditional boomerangs, coolamon, spears, stone knives, social emotional wellbeing yarns, hunting and traditional earth cooking, fishing, dancing, singing and healthy eating and health checks under the shady trees.

Culture is at the centre of Camping on Country and the men are also offered counselling and health checks. The men feel culturally safe and are relaxed about getting their health checks. Social emotional well being yarning circles happen each day and are an important part of the camp with intentional conversation driving the connection and trust between the men.

“Suicide is a real issue in our community. I have lost my Uncle, brother and son and when we come together and open up and talk we share the load. This is more about prevention before its too late. I want to see more of our younger out on country and not in town smoking weed and drinking.” Michael Yam Mayor Kowanyama.

One of the important outcomes from the camp was the identified need for more Camping on Country in Kowanyama and Cape York communities, especially for the younger men. Senior men identified this as a priority.

“These camps make our men feel safe. And when you feel safe you allow yourself to be creative and feel life’s purpose more. We are all here for a reason and when we find our purpose we live a meaningful life. Simple things like yarning around the fire, connecting as men, practicing culture on country help us connect to ourselves and each other. That’s why Camping on Country works.” Dr Derek Chong –Indigenous Psychiatrist.

Social and emotional wellbeing yarns happen around the fire each morning and are facilitated by Camping on Country Ambassador Ernie Dingo and Lomas Amini. “When we put the Lore bosses up the top and recognise them as the experts in their own community positive change happens. These men are the only ones who can close the gap on their own health. These elders here have the solutions and we are here to help give the men a voice so they can be heard.” Ernie Dingo.

We are now looking at ways of putting a Camping on Country Hub in Mareeba with local men managing the camps to service Kowanyama and other Cape communities. Congratulations to Michael Yam and Kevin Bell and the Kowanyama Council and the Apunipima Health team who helped us pull all this together.

Camping on Country is managed by BushTV Enterprises and is funded through the Commonwealth’s Department of Health.

We acknowledge the support of the Hon Ken Wyatt AM Minister for Indigenous Australians.

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