WORKING in a remote Indigenous community near Uluru has been an unforgettable, enjoyable and life changing experience for 13 Hawkesbury high school students.
You can see Uluru in the distance from Nyangatjatjara College, where for the past four days, you would also have found high students from the Hawkesbury and The Hills areas painting buildings and generally making themselves useful at the school for Indigenous students in the Northern Territory.
The students, 13 from the Hawkesbury as well as two former students, are there are part of Member for Hawkesbury, Dominic Perrottet’s Student Leadership Programme.
The students spend a week in the Northern Territory, where living conditions are a far cry from the Hawkesbury. The first stop is Nyangatjatjara College, followed by a five hour trip to the very remote Docker River Primary School.
The Gazette was there with them for part of the stay.
The students, who have either finished or are just about to complete year 12, are taken out of their comfort zones. They sleep in swags under the stars and spend most of their day doing manual labour.
Colo High School’s James Lloyd-Martin said the trip was not what he expected it to be, but had enjoyed his time.
“It is really challenging, but all these people I've never met but I'm making new friends. The hard work is actually doing something positive, I feel like I'm doing something good,” he said.
“I am surprised, it wasn't what I expected, I thought I'd be doing some nit-picky stuff around the place but it is actually rewarding.
“I am thinking of coming back here and doing some more volunteering after university.”
Hawkesbury High School’s Megan Bradburn said she found the manual labour a bit boring, but ultimately felt the trip was well worth going on.
“It is really eye opening. It has been a unique experience, which is going to stay with you forever,” she said.
“I didn't really have a clear idea of what to expect, I just jumped in to see first hand what it was about, and it is nothing that you could have ever compared it to.
“I am excited I came. Not knowing what to expect was the nerve wracking part. I am glad and it has been very enjoyable.”
Arndell College’s Jack Kenyon said he thought later in life he would reap the rewards of this trip.
“I didn't know what to think before I came here. your first thought is not for Schoolies to come here and help out a community, but I am so glad I came,” he said.
“I feel like this will be a lot more rewarding over the rest of our lives not just the week that we are here.”
Bede Polding College’s Cameron Ezzy said he had heard about how Indigenous people lived in the Northern Territory, but seeing up firsthand was something not what he had expected.
“It is something that is almost life changing in terms of getting perspective of a very different culture,” he said.
“Experiencing makes a big difference, you can hear about it but actually seeing it can change your perception about it.
“We've come to this college to expose ourselves to a very different culture.”
Member for Hawkesbury Dominic Perrottet said when he was 18 he took part in Schoolies celebrations.
However, two years later he walked the Kokoda Track and he said it had a profound impact upon him.
He said the two experiences could not be more contrasted, and said the fact young people were willing to give up a week of their lives, perform manual labour for people they had never met and avoid the excesses of Schoolies said a lot about their character.
He said the students who went on this trip were future leaders in their community and they were prepared to lead by their actions not words.