In May this year, a group of six St Patrick’s students; Nathan Mastantuono, Victoria Filsell, Kyra Ninnes, Sam McLeod, Luke Hall and Daniel Ridley, joined by staff members Neil Chippendale and Celina Bolding, traveled to Tiwi College, Melville Island, about 50km off the north coast of Darwin. The aim of the journey was to engage with the indigenous students at the College and show them some of trade skills that our students have developed.
Neil Chippendale, in consultation with the Tiwi College Community, organised for our St Pat’s students to build some outdoor furniture for students to sit and eat their lunch. As often happens in remote communities, the timber was ordered, but did not arrive on the barge that brings supplies to the island. Thanks to the resourcefulness of the locals, some mahogany slabs of timber were sourced from a community on the far side of the Island. We organised for the appropriate tools to be brought up from Adelaide to enable the construction of the outdoor furniture to go ahead.
Over the course of the week, the Tiwi College senior boys and the St Pat’s boys,produced a beautiful piece of furniture. As a gift, we donated the tools to Tiwi College, so that when the ordered timber arrived (three weeks later) the students were able to build the rest of the furniture with the assistance of a VET teacher from Darwin.
The whole Tiwi College community was very welcoming and shared with us many cultural experiences. Boys and girls work separately in the Tiwi Culture. While the boys were building the outdoor furniture, the girls went to collect ochre (which is used to make paint), roots and pandanas leaves from the beaches, creeks and bush land. With the knowledge of the local students and an indigenous artist, Natalie, we were shown how to dye the pandanas leaves with the bark from the roots.
In the meantime the boys went into the bush to find suitable Ironbark trees to cut down to make traditionalpukumani (burial) poles. The boys went on to carve the poles and then the girls painted traditional designs on them.
We experienced traditional fishing with spears, nets and lines at South Beach and went swimming in some beautiful waterholes. We were invited to camp overnight at Karslake by the traditional land owners. We spent the evening fishing and talking to the locals who told us about many of their customs. We watched a beautiful sunset and then lit many fires on the beach to keep the crocodiles away at night!
Our visit to the Tiwi Islands is one that will remain with us for many years to come. It has shown us a completely different lifestyle to our own and given us an appreciation of the indigenous Tiwi Culture. We hope to continue this experience each year at St Patrick’s giving many students and staff the opportunity to be a part of this wonderful experience.
We would like to sincerely thank the Tiwi College community for their wonderful hospitality.
Advanced Technology Unit Coordinator