A Parent’s Perspective…

Jul 6, 2015

ChurchA parent’s perspective on the Outback Immersion tour to Santa Teresa

When my daughter Nina announced to us that she wanted to apply to go on the immersion tour to Santa Teresa I was pleased. I had an internal check list of all the areas of her middle class life that needed a quick fix and was sure that Santa Teresa was just the place to transform my teenager into a saint! I had high hopes.

The first challenge for my daughter was completing the schools application form. The question: “What have you done in service to others in your community and in your school”? was the first challenge. When she asked her father to help with this question his reply was “I can’t actually think of anything you have done for anyone…. Other than yourself of course, and no, walking the dog and unpacking the dishwasher is not community service”. After recovering from this blunt and honest answer, to her credit, Nina agreed that this area of her life needed adjusting. She wrote about her grandparents who she had witnessed doing community service and charitable work for others throughout their life, she explained that she would like be more like them.

Nina was accepted on the tour and the next step was the briefing at St Scholastica’s in Glebe prior to the trip. I was feeling frazzled squeezing yet another event into our already busy sport filled Saturday schedule. As soon as we were in the briefing I was feeling humbled seeing the excitement and enthusiasm of the teachers who were giving up their Saturday and their school holidays to accompany the students on the trip. They clearly did not see this as a burden but as an opportunity. Listening to Sister Meg was interesting and informative and I was beginning to realise that this would be a once in a life time opportunity for my daughter. I saw that the students from the other Good Samaritan schools were wonderful young people who she would be sharing the adventure with.

While my daughter was away I received only one text message. This message arrived three days into the trip saying “Hi mum, sorry forgot to text you but we are here”. I figured she was having a great time and not missing home at all.

SilouhetteWhen the week was over I was looking forward to picking her up at the airport as well as having a quick browse through Ikea which is almost next door to the airport! She came through the arrivals gate looking exhausted. The teary goodbyes to students with whom she had travelled showed the strong connections she had made with the group. She also told me she now had three new friends from her own school year group, girls she had been at school with for three and a half years but had not previously gotten to know.

So, into the car and straight to Ikea. We walked the store and for those who have been there you will know it is a good few kilometres beginning to end. Nina brought her booklet into the store and talked to me in great detail as we walked, telling stories of the community at Santa Teresa, the women’s art studio, the clubhouse where the young people would visit in the evenings for friendship, fellowship and basketball. She also talked about Women’s Business, Men’s Business, and respect for the deceased by not using the name of the deceased after they had passed. She told me humorous quotes from Sister Liz which her group had written down. She described the beautiful artworks which had been created at Santa Teresa and the spectacular landscapes she had experienced, and the difficulties of getting into Alice Springs for medical appointments. She also described the poor conditions in which the community lived, the overcrowding in the houses and the general level of poverty.

Nina learned about The Northern Territory National Emergency Response (the intervention) which was begun in 2007 and ended in August 2012. Nina felt that she had been able to see and understand some of the negative effects of the Intervention for herself.

As I walked through Ikea whilst listening to the commentary from Nina, I found that I did not want to look the thousands of products on the shelves but was realising that I needed to look at my own life and priorities, changes I wanted for my daughter was perhaps more needed in my own life.

The debrief one month after the trip to Santa Teresa was an excited reunion for the students and an opportunity for the groups to present their reflections on their time at Santa Teresa. The students communicated in a variety of ways their experiences. I am convinced that the students could not have gained the depth of understanding of the life of Indigenous Australians living at Santa Teresa without actually going there.

I am very thankful that this experience was given to my daughter, I am also thankful for people like Sister Liz who hosted our children in this valuable experience. I am also inspired by Sister Liz’s life which is lived in service to others.

I am still living with a teenager, and life has quickly gone back to normal, racing around in a busy life. However I know that due to this experience we will be looking for ways to help to be of service to those in need.

Belinda Foss
Parent, Stella Maris College

Below is an extract from the speech Nina wrote about The Intervention after her trip to Santa Teresa.

Before I went to Santa Teresa, I had no understanding of the intervention.

It is easy to be critical of the federal government. It appears that they palmed off their ideas to the Northern territory government who were perhaps overwhelmed by the expectations.

It’s also easy to be critical of the communities. Some communities are welfare dependent with no hope of breaking the cycle of poverty and welfare handouts.

With all that said, Santa Teresa is an example of a community with hope. Whilst at Santa Teresa, we talked to a man running a small cottage industry for making furniture. He told us the story of how he moved from Western Australia to Santa Teresa and of his passion for indigenous culture. We all felt inspired by him and were amazed at his selflessness. He really is making a change and Santa Teresa is a role model for other communities.

Coming back from Immersion, I have learnt that we need people like Sister Liz. It is easier to criticize from the sidelines but she not only talks the talk but also walks the walk. She appears not to have passed judgment on people and is accepting of everyone. Her life embodies the Good Samaritan Values and she is an inspiration to all of us.

In my opinion, an alternative to regulating the lives of people in communities is to provide people with ongoing education and training to support community based projects. This generates economic independence and self-sufficiency, where people are not dependent on government handouts.

The only way forward is to celebrate indigenous people and their culture, instead of trying to restrict it. It is an important part of our past, our present and our future. And I’m sure that Santa Teresa is just the beginning for all of us.

Nina Longfellow
Student, Stella Maris College