Standing in solidarity with our “neighbour” – Reflections on the Year 10 Santa Teresa Immersion

Aug 18, 2017

In the July school holiday’s students and teachers from six Good Samaritan schools travelled to the remote Aboriginal community of Santa Teresa. Following on from the article of August 4th outlining the extraordinary experiences of the staff and students we would like to share with you some of the reflections and lessons we have learnt from this humbling experience.

How did we Listen?
Listening, at the start, was a challenge. It came in the form of miscommunication, smiles and hand gestures. Talking to the women in the Spirituality Centre was always going to be awkward to begin with but over time talking and listening came naturally to us. Listening to Sister Liz explain the meaning of the murals painted by local women on the walls of the church gave us a sense of the connection between Aboriginal culture and Catholic beliefs. We listened to the stories, connected with the community and now have a greater understanding of Arrernte Aboriginal culture. Erin Bradley St Scholastica’s College.

The Santa Teresa immersion experience was something that I don’t think I’ll ever truly forget. As soon as we arrived in Santa Teresa I was learning and absorbing the culture. I was struck by how strong the community was and how reverent. Upon first hearing about Santa Teresa I was confused about how the Indigenous beliefs would fit in with what sounded like such a religious community but I soon discovered that both religions could exist as one in the same. Whilst in the church and hearing stories it was one of the first times I ever really understood how important faith was to people, how much support it could give. It wasn’t only spiritual leaning however that I was learning, I found out an incredible amount about the treatment and ideals that are shared about Aboriginal people. Even without knowing it, we have so many cliches in our head about the Aboriginal people. I learnt that Australia is not as equal as I originally thought and that much is still needed in the way of fair living and rights for all. But most importantly, I learnt to let go of all of that, my ideas and thoughts; and to just listen, to stories, to their point of view and to what the community meant to them. Scarlett Potter, St Mary Star of the Sea College, Wollongong.

How did we Learn?
Within five nights and six days our outlook towards life had dramatically changed. We were fortunate enough to have learnt and lived as a local within the community. The hardships the women and the community face each day and the few solutions we observed were at times frustrating to hear and see, but the positive nature and connectedness of the community, despite the struggles was astounding. It is impossible to forget this life changing immersion, I am grateful I could attend. Genevieve Ripard St Scholastica’s College.

How will we live differently?
Returning home to a different world was a challenge. Having to readjust and try to comprehend what we had experienced took some time and contemplation. It was during this reflection that we began to understand the importance of slowing down and taking time to reflect. Our days at Santa Teresa also encouraged us to embrace different cultures and beliefs, which has already impacted our lives here in Sydney. The best way to thank the community of Santa Teresa is to raise awareness of their culture and customs and to encourage more respect for this ancient culture. We will forever cherish this experience and it really has changed our lives for the better. Grace Mitchell St Scholastica’s College.

We are truly grateful to the Arrernte people of Santa Teresa, Sister Liz Weimer and the Good Samaritan Education Immersion program, it has been an extraordinary experience. The lessons will stay with us and inform our lives for years to come.