Last year I headed up to Pender Bay 'on country' with a group of teenagers. Pender Bay is located 180km north of Broome on the Dampier Peninsula. Geraldine Shadforth, an Elder from Beagle Bay runs Youth Empowerment and Healing Cultural Camp (YEaHCC). The one-week camps take place every school holiday period and is led by Geraldine's not for profit Burrongglo Aboriginal Corporation. The camp provides the opportunity to focus on the protective, cultural factors of young people who are considered at risk by learning about sharing, caring and community values through greater connection to culture and country. I was fortunate to join Geraldine and the kids on camp on private land owned by a well known Indigenous family.
The only non-Indigenous person on the land, I didn't really notice until one of the young girls asked me, 'Miss, why are you here? You're the only white person here'. I looked this gorgeous 15 year old girl in the eyes and told her I like learning from young people. I was then met with a 'okay miss, you're cool! I'm glad you're here, you're nice to us.'.... I was only there for 2 days and got to understand a little about what going on country means to these kids. They LOVED it. It was about getting them talking through cultural activities and letting them know they are not alone. No iPads, no TV, no tears about missing out on toys, just kids learning from Elders and each other and having fun camping, picking oysters, fishing, hunting and in between doing some mental health activities.
While I can't comment on their circumstances I know most of these kids have not had an easy life. It's people like Geraldine who are the true heroes of the Kimberley. This 70 - something young grandmother started her foundation when she lost young members of her family to suicide. Geraldine's daughter Shonella and Shonella's daughters also come on camp and I hope to join them in July this year.