“The Biamunga Program, now and in the future at Monte, is about students becoming comfortable in their own skins, whilst learning to engage with particular Indigenous communities … [and] to develop with intellectual and emotional intelligence, so that as we deal with behaviours shaped by a different world view, we achieve a heightened capacity and sensibility. We can be global leaders in this field.” Aunty Julie Smith of the Kalkadoon Nation, Monte’s Indigenous Curriculum Advisor.
Monte has been involved in Biamunga since 1998. In one context Biamunga means “journey to the mountain”, so it is an appropriate name for a ‘Monte’ experience. This word can also be interpreted as “a journey to understanding”. The word was given to Monte by the Aboriginal Elder, Uncle Max Harrison / Dulumunmun. Uncle Max is an Elder and Law / Loreman of the Yuin people from the South Coast of NSW. He has been instrumental in guiding the Biamunga Program at Monte.
Several cultural exchange trips have taken place as a part of the program, including trips to Yuin sacred sites and to Saint Patrick’s College, on The Strand in Townsville, which has many indigenous students. The Biamunga Pastoral program also extends into Curriculum areas, to truly create a journey to understanding by challenging staff and students to make links to Indigenous issues.
In the Biamunga Program students have:
- experimented with Aboriginal movement and dance
- explored Aboriginal themes in creating paintings
- experienced ground-breaking & challenging drama & written songs
- gained knowledge of the land with an Elder
- shared stories and learnt about ‘respect’
- broadened their perspectives on life and the lives of others
Biamunga is a journey of discovery which can offer learning from Aboriginal spiritual and cultural values. It aims to develop an awareness and expression of our individual and collective identities as Australians. It is our challenge to continue with this journey of cultural understanding.
Mutitjulu is in the shadow of Uluru and is home to the Anangu people. Each year a group of Monte students and staff visit the community. The aim of the project is for staff and students to experience a cultural exchange through hands-on activities and guidance by Anangu, who live in the community, knowledgeable about Indigenous issues, as well as to mesh this program with our CAS and Community & Service initiative.
The program involves staff and students working with Aboriginal artists at local art cooperative, doing community service at the Mutitjulu Child Care Centre, helping out with the children during swimming and sports programs, experiencing the central desert landscape and spirituality, and walking at Uluru and Kata Tjuta.
Students gain insight into the cultural protocols and customs of the Anangu people and must be aware of the respect and humility required in the community. It is important to note that the trip is not intended as a mission to improve the community, but rather to maintain a mutual relationship, in which both communities, Monte and Mutitjulu, can learn and grow.
To enhance students’ interaction with the Anangu community the group undertakes extensive training before departure. Last year this included meetings with Melanie Hogan, the Director of Kanyini, a documentary about Mutitjulu elder Uncle Bob Randall; a class with Aboriginal artist Walangari Karntawarra who delivered a workshop on Central Desert art and culture; a tutorial in cultural perspectives connected with Aboriginal childhood and growing up conducted by ex-student, Janette Blainey; and meeting with Scott McCall, who was developing employment programs in Mutitjulu. Students also learn some of the local language, Pitjantjatjara, and sit with Monte’s Indigenous advisors, Uncle Max Harrison and Aunty Julie Smith who shared their insights into cultural protocols, spirituality and bridging cultural gaps.