South Coast Aboriginal elders recently hosted a cultural camp for young Indigenous people from Western Sydney.
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Elders led 40 teens through a three-day experience held at Booderee and Morton National Parks, involving structured workshops and activities.
These kids, they are our future. Aboriginal people have a lot to give to other Australians, we just need to invest in our kids- Booderee elder Noel Butler
Camp mentor and Indigenous elder Noel Butler said it was his role to encourage the young leaders to be comfortable with who they are and strengthen them in their cultural knowledge.
“I encourage them to never stop believing in themselves, and to listen and learn from myself and other elders,” Mr Butler said.
“To strive to go back to their own country, their families, and talk and listen to their grandparents and elders. It strengthens them in who they are.”
When Fairfax Media spoke to Mr Butler, mentors and the teens had just spent a full day out in the wilderness at Pigeon House Mountain (Didthul) talking about flora, fauna and the value of the bush.
“An old Aboriginal tradition is taking someone from another country to our country (there are between 250-700 Aboriginal nations in Australia), showing them around,” Mr Butler said.
“We went to a very special place where all our stories and law came from. We went to the top of the mountain, lit a fire and had a proper smoking ceremony to welcome them to our country, to strengthen them for their journey in life. They got so much value out of that.”
Mr Butler said the challenges Aboriginal people faced when he was born, about 70 years ago, continue to plague his people.
“We have horrible health statistics, a 10-year life expectancy gap, a high infant mortality rate, a shocking suicide rate, our living standards have improved only slightly, and low participation rates in education,” he said.
“I live in hope for a better future than what we have already.
“These kids, they are our future. Aboriginal people have a lot to give to other Australians, we just need to invest in our kids.”
The camp was hosted by First Hand Solutions Aboriginal Corporation, established with a mission to build empowered, resilient Indigenous communities through cultural reconnection, education and employment.
The Leadership Camp enables Indigenous youth to develop their cultural identity and leadership skills, helping them find success in their personal lives- Coca-Cola Amatil’s national business manager Paul Duroux
First Hand Solutions is one of 25 organisations to receive funding as part of the Coca-Cola Australia Foundation Employee Connected Grants program in 2018.
Coca-Cola Amatil’s national business manager Paul Duroux nominated the charity.
“First Hand Solutions is a professional Indigenous organisation achieving extraordinarily positive results for Indigenous youth,” Mr Duroux said.
“The programs it offers are innovative, exciting and engaging, passing on the skills and knowledge that our young people need as foundation. The Leadership Camp enables Indigenous youth to develop their cultural identity and leadership skills, helping them find success in their personal lives.”
To be eligible for a Coca-Cola Australia Foundation grant, it is required that charity missions are relevant to young Australians aged 13 to 19 years and address their happiness, optimism, empowerment, wellbeing and enhanced possibilities for a positive life.
The 2018 round of grants will see a variety of programs and initiatives receive much-needed financial support from the Coca-Cola Australia Foundation; from creative writing programs and funding for at-risk youth, to support for young refugees and asylum seekers.
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