Alice Springs/Santa Teresa Outback Immersion
As attendees of the 2013 Alice Springs/Santa Teresa Outback Immersion, George and I have been privileged to experience a new environment unlike our own within our own nation. The trip has illuminated our understanding of the outback region as well as considerably broadened our perspective of life in Australia, especially in regards to the indigenous population. During the ten day duration that was our trip, we managed to explore the outback in practical, theoretical and spiritual forms, all of which further enhanced our experience of learning and understanding the region. For us, this trip has been an incredible highlight of the year and indeed our lives.
In regards to the spiritual component of it, both groups were enlightened by the traditions and lifestyle of the Indigenous Australians. One aspect of their faith was their incredible ability to combine Christianity back when the Catholic Church was the sole authority of the region. This has produced a very rich religious tradition indeed, whereby these people can believe in God whilst practising their faith and using their own manifestations which emphasises their identity as a people- we were also told such a merging of cultures was easy for them since they already believed in a god, they just called him by a different name. This combined faith is also visually expressed within the artworks of their church’s interior. Unfortunately we could not take photos of it, but we were all amazed by the artistic talent demonstrated by these people who went from their native cultural painting to expanding their skill-set into the more euro-centric art-form of creating objects, animals and people with shadows and three-dimensional imagery. Both groups were also given the rare opportunity of experiencing a smoking ceremony which proved to be an enlightened and unique educational and life experience of their culture for all of us.
As for the aspect relating to activities, our group (the group of students was split in two) travelled to the remote community of Santa Teresa. During our stay, each of us would depart towards accomplishing various tasks and jobs, all of which aided the town in some way. Just three examples within a day include some of the students helping out at the school canteen, while others would work in the op shop, while another portion would aid in the women’s community centre. During our stay, we also got to experience the spiritual culture of the area as well as listen to the residents regarding their stories, knowledge and livelihoods, which really enhanced our understanding of the outback and the state of the indigenous community. The next location to explore was Alice Springs. We were privileged to have witnessed and explored the incredible gorges, the Royal Flying Doctor Service and the fire station- just to name a few!
Using a mixed combination of practical, theoretical and spiritual ventures, the immersion really did help expand our knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the region.
Michael Lotsaris and George Hatzigiannis