Kimberley's Volunteer Trip

Kimberley's Volunteer Trip

Well, it’s hard to start to explain an incredible trip, where the first time in over 4 years I had no access to technology (or lack thereof) for a week long period in a busy time of the year. This trip was unique, in every way shape and form, from the first interaction of getting on board the trip, to the moment I jumped on the plane to go home, and every thing in between.

I was introduced to John VW, Founder and Chair of Fair Game. months ago, by my good friend Jamie Shaw, who at the time realised that between my passions for sport and making a difference, and Johns growth in his charity, there would be obvious cross overs.

Our first interaction was on a google hangout, I was in between meetings, and John was in an operating theatre.. Standard right? We chatted about each of our stories, and hit it off. It was the exact time where I was wanting to look into charities in Australia, particularly making a difference to less privileged Aussies, and thats exactly what Fair Game is about.

Long and short, we connected well, I told John if there was a spot on any of their trips out to the Kimberley region to let me know, and I’d see what I could do. A phone call rang, they had a spot in October, and we locked it in.

Day 1&2 - Friday/Saturday 2nd/3rd October

Fast forward 2 months and I arrive in Perth, greeted well at the Airport by John. The day was long with flying, and It’s a busy afternoon ahead, we get sorted and that Friday night Fair Game has a quiz night fundraiser on - Perfect way to meet the brains behind the organisation.

The night was a success, and I believe they raised $10,000 - Was in the beautiful Mosman Park Yacht Club and I met half the crowd, form the volunteers to the early adopters, everyones spirits were high, and I knew I was in for an exciting week ahead.

Saturday comes, I check out the sites of Perth with some Fair Gamers, cliff jumping, beach, WA sunsets, Social Enterprise planning and game changing chats.

Day 3 - Sunday 5th October

I awake early, and get on the road for a run through the Perth suburbs to get set for a day of travel ahead. Today we’re flying to Broome, and driving to Fitzroy Crossing, a small 400+km drive from Broome, which is 2000+km from Perth! Sarah Power, an amazing young individual who has been an integral part of FairGames growth picks me up, in awesome Sarah style.. Late, and loving. We make it to the airport, and we get to meet almost everyone on the trip. Myself, Sarah, Emily, Nick, Hamish and Mel. We shuffle through check-in and get every thing organised, meanwhile chatting strongly about who we are, and how excited we are.

The flight is pure, I got to look over a tender before submission, and some final emails before switching down the glorious internet connections to mainstream. We land in Broome, which would quite possibly be the smallest airport I have seen, other than Ka’annapali in Maui, Hawaii, and are greeted by Matt Scanlon and Grace, the program directors, who had already been in the area. It’s hot. humid and sunny, The only way in the Kimberley.

We’re also met by Lockie and Jess from ICEA Foundation. They’re joining us for a few days to check out the programs and support us. Lockie is a young individual who by the age of 24 has created a game changing reconciliation foundation, doing amazing things.

We unpack into the rental cars, proudly donated to the charity by AVIS, and we are off, 400km into the desert land. I believe there is no better way to break the ice with a group of people other than a long car trip, in the heat of the desert, where there is no access to mobile phones.

We’re driving away from the sunset, and the scenery is incredible. Red dirt, barren land, boab trees and road trains. We meet half way on the drive, and take some photo’s, and say goodbye to the trip going Derby way.

Before we enter Fitzroy Crossing, our base for the week ahead, we stop off on the highway, take some sunset photo’s, and practice hand stands on the hot highway, until we see a road train in the distance, that’s our key to move!

Arrived safely in Fitzroy Crossing, 630pm, 40 degree’s and humid.

Highlight of the day: Handstands on the highway on sunset.

Day 4 - Monday 5th October

I awake at 5am, the sun is peering through, the warmth is building, and there is no time like the present. I put my Tech gear on, runners tied up and go out for a run in to the desert. I managed to probably only last 4km before I was sweating everything my body had. I thought I should be careful, my SVT condition (Supra Ventricular Tachycardia) is a high concern in heated climates, and we’re pretty remote out there!

Everyone is awake and at it by 6:30am, we gather round for breakfast and plan out the day. Today we’re going to a community named “Maludja” which is about 30km away. On the way, Matt briefs the team about the general things to be aware of when in Aboriginal communities, from the way the families work, to the schooling system, they’re love for sport and everything in between. Matt lived in Fitzroy for some time, and he knows what he is talking about in this area.

Rather than a set time to start a program in these areas, the way to start is to go to the Basketball Court and start shooting hoops. I’m amazed, within 20 minutes we’ve got a group of kids from all ages coming over and start playing. Not many words are exchanged, just smiles and tactics to get the ball in the ring, or the footy kicked well. I spend some time understanding how the other group leaders interact and after some time, the young boy, I was kicking the footy with for some time, who was maybe 6 years old says “Oi Gudia, what’s your name” I reply, “Mick”. The next thing he says is “Hey, where’s that one basketball I was playing with”. The aboriginal language is so strong, and these kids are very directed!

After an hour of games on the court, we’re in 40 degree heat and ready for something more relaxed. We all go for some water, and sit down on some shade near by, to run the “healthy habits and wellness walkabout” programs, which have been developed by Fair Game to encourage washing hands and the “no germs on me” policy, as well as Yoga and stretching movements. Once this is done, we prepare some art with the kids, play some more sport and it’s almost time to go.

We have a bunch of goods to give out, some OnTheGo products included, and I am almost in tears to see how excited the kids are to get some new fresh sports apparel and gear for their use, it’s a humbling experience seeing the simplest things the western world takes for granted daily, make such a significant impact to the way a child develops and learns.

Rather than going back to Fitzroy Crossing (FX), we notice we have 3 hours spare, so, with Matt’s knowledge of the area, we calculate that if we adventure to Tunnel Creek which is about 100km away, we could spend 40 mins there, and get back to FX in time for the night time session with the FX community.

We arrive at Tunnel Creek after a very interesting car ride, packed with myself, Matt, Sarah, Mel, Jess and Lockie, who all we’re in our group, 6 23-30 year olds, passionate about life and making a difference makes for a hell of a car trip. Between business, charity, political, aboriginal history and the one food that we’d choose if we were on a deserted island, we learnt a lot about each other.

Tunnel Creek is a beautiful area, a granite gorge, with a creek running through. We hike into the creek, and walk around the rocks and shore of a beautiful looking water hole. The granite is white, the water is blue and the temperature is beautiful. We hit the dark part of the tunnel, and Mel and me decide to pull it up there, as the others endeavour into the dark. Between my fear of Crocodiles, and my terrible night vision, I thought I’d get more enjoyment out of hanging with Mel - Was happy I did!

Once out of the Tunnel, we hiked and climbed across beautiful granite, totally amazing views and Matt also explained the story of “Jundamurra” an elder aboriginal who hid in the area of here after he’d been on the run from the Police. We also hiked up high enough we could see his artwork and the granite paintings.

We head back to Fitzroy, and while running late, we see a man in the distance walking up the red dirt road towards us. We pull over to see if this man is OK. He’s name is Lance, and his 4WD has run out of petrol, 80km out from Fitzroy Crossing. It’s blistering heat and his wife and 2 children, both who seem under 4 years old, are in the car. We offer him a lift to FX, he accepts and we rush back.

We get back to FX, drop Lance at the Service Station, head to the FX Community Centre, play some basketball with the local kids, I got a dose of SVT whilst in the heat, and needed to go lie down to get back into normal rhythm. We then head back to base. Matt’s brother and his partner Luke and Annie The night was filled with tired laughter and enjoyment while we played a group game of Cranium, which Sarah and I were partners in, and what a laugh that was. Board Games are far from my expertise!

Highlight of the day: Rock climbing 30 metre high granite gorge, with no harness.

Day 5 - Tuesday 6th October

I awake at 6am, and head out for a stretch and run in the once again hot, dry FX. As I get back for breakfast, I realise Lockie isn’t in the house. What happened, was Lance, the man we picked up on the way back yesterday, was still waiting on the road at the service station, he had not managed to get a lift back out to his car and family, so had slept on the side of the road. Lockie quickly went and got the 4WD and picked him up, taking him out to his family.

I thought how amazing that situation was, considering the relaxed state he was in, it goes to show; time / trust and loyalty are all very strong in the indigenous community, you would not see that happen in my city without a hype and news headline.

We endeavour out to a community called “Bayulu” today. It was a short trip out here, only 20km away, and we had a great turn out of kids. There would have been 30 kids participating in our programs, and despite the blistering heat, not much shade and a dusty community.

The kids are so welcoming to us. We spend the day playing basketball, skipping competitions, wellness walkabout yoga sessions, no germs on me program and general ‘hang out and chat time’

Once we’re finished at the community, we head to the old fitzroy river crossing, which once was interestingly, the only road that could connect WA to NT. WE notice there’s a bunch of kids swimming, so in respect of their land, we ask them if we can join them, of course they accept, and we spend an hour swimming in the beautiful Fitzroy River.

What I learnt was if you swim with locals, you’ll be in the right area away from crocs, or at least the big saltwater ones that will get you! We find some tree’s that we can jump off, and learn about their culture. Swimming back was fun, I had to carry two young chaps on my shoulders, and what a workout that was!

With some time on our hands, we drive out to “Geiki Gorge” which is a beautiful gorge close by. WE don’t swim as they’re may be crocs, but instead look at the beautiful Rocks, the interesting flood levels over the years, and have great convo with the crew.

Tonight we’re running a move night at the community centre, so we dash back, organise the cooking of 100 sausages and meals, and spend the night enjoying the local community.

One interesting thing I learnt about the way many aboriginals sit and talk, they don’t look each other in the eyes - yet its not disrespectful, they often will sit facing outwards, talking to each other, and unlike white australians, who feel the need to fill every gap with a word, they do not over talk.

Today I got into SVT 3 times, which did scare me a little, as it was continuous and the heat wasn’t helping. A good rest and hydration would be key.

Highlight of the day: Getting called “My Gadia” by a young chap (My white man)

Day 6 - Wednesday 7th October

This morning I didn’t run, was needing a big sleep, but awoke with some stretches. It was an early start, as the community we went to - Wangkatjungka was the furthest away, 85km, and around 1 hour 20 minutes. With the heat looking to hit 45-47 degree’s, we decide to get into the day early.

We rounded up around 30 kids, this community was quite barren, and we had some challenges with timing as the local community group we’re running a session at the same time, so we do our best.

We’re based out of the school for the day, and it was quite funny, we went to the local store, there were some locals hanging around, and they said that there had been reports of 2 massive Eastern Brown Snakes in the classrooms of the school. Now with my fear of snakes, I think everyone enjoyed giving me stick for this. From the other group leaders, to the young kids, once they found out I had a fear of snakes it was the funny story… not for me!

We played many sport games with the kids, and I conducted a fully unprepared game of Basketball Relay, which turned out great. Sarah created a new program called “Breath Blow Cough” (BBC) which is all about educating the children about the necessary health in blowing and coughing out yuckies, so they can keep their ears clean and clear. We all sat together and made play dough, which of course was green for me, and placed the dough in a pipe, and demonstrated how hard it is to hear and listen through that - This was an obvious way of showing the kids how blocked ears can effect their balance, health and well-being.

When we left the community, we were welcomed to go to their local spring - Which was mind blowing beautiful. Here we are, literally in the desert and middle of Australia, and there’s a super deep spring. Pure bliss. We had to do a ritual of rubbing the rocks under our arms and then throwing the rocks in the water before we got in, this signifies that the dreatime snake in the area accepts and protects us to swim. We swim, jump off tree’s and enjoy the refreshingness.

We have some time in the afternoon free, so we spend that checking out the local art store, and relaxing at base. I used the time to make some notes and play guitar.

Tonight was a pool party night at the local pool. Where we made many healthy rissoles, vegetable kebabs and spent the night in the great local community pool. After a competitive water basketball game, we’re all tired from a long day, so we all slept very well.

Highlight of the day: Getting welcomed into a natural spring, nicer than any pool I’ve been to.

Day 7 - Thursday 7th October

We’re spending the day in Fitzroy Crossing, which gave us a nice sleep in. We make our way down to the community centre, and spend the morning playing indoor basketball, table tennis, dancing on the XBOX game and yoga on the grass. There wasn’t the biggest turn out of the kids, but we get to spend some time with the young leaders of the community, aged between 18-22, who we chat to about what their plans are for the future, and how we can assist them.

We spend the day doing some final things around the town, and enjoy a feast at the local pub for dinner. Lots of history, lots of locals.

Highlight of the day: Getting dominated in a basketball game by the local youth.

Day 8 - Friday 8th October

We rise early, emotionally clean the place we’ve been staying, knowing it’s not long now until all the volunteers will be separated for some time. We’ve grown to know each other so closely. 24 hours a day for a week, living in each other lives, experiencing many great things, we’ve all gotten so close and shared so much. It’s so blissful, and that interaction just doesn’t happen enough nowadays.

We’re on the road by 8am, and we get our usual proud $1.50 coffee from the Service Station and hit the Red Dirt highway, en route to Broome.

The trip is just the original 4, myself, Matt, Sarah and Mel. It’s a super fun trip, between the outback bathroom stops, the almonds and macadamia’s, and the singalong tunes, we make the 420km go very quick.

We arrive in Broome after lunch, it’s really nice and warm, the sand is golden white, the water is deep blue.

We go to the famous Matso’s brewery, where the Ginger Beer, Mango and Chilli Beer, are amongst some of the best in the world.

We’re met back with the rest of the crew at the beautiful Cable Beach for a swim and catch up. Stories, laughs and timely discussions are just the start of the final 24 hours together!

We all watch the beautiful sunset on Cable Beach, photo’s never do this place justice, but I would go as far to say as it’s the best place in the world I’ve seen a sunset.

The crew gathered for dinner at “Mangroves” and we were super fortunate to see what is known as the “Stairway to heaven”. It happens very rarely, but is when the full moon and tides all meet together at the right time. The tides flow through the mangroves, and the moons reflection makes the water between the mangroves look like a Stairway to the moon!

We then kick on to a night at the local pub and we were lucky to get tickets to see the famous Thundamentals and Hilltop Hoods, and the rest there is history!

Highlight of the day: The most beautiful sunset I’ve seen to date - Broome, WA

Day 9 - Saturday 9th October

We awake and make a run to the beach for a last swim in the prorogues temperate, salty and refreshing Broome waters.

The Broome markets are on, and we head there to check them out before the flight. I sit with some aboriginal elders and learn the Didgeridoo. I end up buying a beautiful Boxwood Didgeridoo and it’s now my mission to learn it! I also spend some time at the local Bike shop, talking wheels, races and local rides.

There wouldn’t be a trip, unless I almost miss a flight, and this is one of the closest calls I’ve had. We’re all sitting in a beautiful cafe, when we’re discussing our apparent “2:40pm” departure. I am certain that I was with QANTAS, while everyone else was saying it’s Virgin, we thought we were all together on the flight back to Perth, then of course I’d be connecting to Canberra.

I take a look at my evernote, at precisely 12:32pm, and realise that my flight is actually, 1:00pm departure from Broome! I look at Matt, he looks at me, and we go for it. I say a 2 second goodbye to my favourites, and hit the airport in 5 minutes. I was so very fortunate they let me on, the gates had actually closed, and it would of been a long and expensive adventure if I’d missed it!

The plane trip is relaxing, taking off over Cable Beach, the blue of the water fills the plane with it’s glorious neon rays.

I make it back to home, and on the journey spend time reflecting on what was one of the most humbling, powerful and exciting adventures in my life to date.

Highlight of the day: The crystal blue waters of Cable Beach

We effected around 100+ kids that week, and the work Fair Game is doing is incredible. I cannot wait to be a part of a growing journey in the future.

The 5 life lessons I learnt from my trip:
1. Ngapartji Ngapartji - Give and exchange values - You can’t give without receiving.
2. Technology isn’t key to life, personal relationships are.
3. Do not judge a river by it’s bank, give it the time to understand it’s heritage and beauty.
4. You sleep a hell of a lot better when you’ve given everything in that day you can, to someone else
5. Sometimes not filling gaps in conversation is the most powerful thing you can do.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has - Margaret Mead

Good bye for now, or should I say “yaluu”

Every Day Matters,

Mick

Mick's volunteer trip with Fair Game in the Kimberleys.
Western Australia

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