Last week Sarah & I visited Wananami Remote Community School. It is only accessible by the Gibb River Rd, a 4WD corrugated road located 2 hours north of Broome. In the wet season, this community gets cut off from the rest of the world. The school is near Manning Gorge, which is MAGNIFICENT, even without the waterfall at present. The 600km drive was long but worth it. The first day was spent doing mental health activities. The next day, the students took us to the Manning Gorge River where they spent time taking photographs.
Mr J, their teacher expressed his dismay that the students didn't once ask to go for a swim when we were there. In fact, they were disappointed they couldn't stay longer to take more photos. I wish every school had cameras. Every time we do this, no matter how young or old the students are, they all LOVE taking photos (no selfies allowed!) and they all tell me how relaxed and calm they feel afterwards. The creative arts are so important and undervalued in education but I want to change that. Usually, it is the struggling student that thrives in photography in my classes. Creative expression helped me overcome some of the toughest moments in my life and now it fills me with joy seeing the students' expressions when they see their photos.
It is this feeling of joy and pride I want them to find in an activity such as drawing, painting, dancing or writing which will help soothe the storms in their life . I reminded the students how brave they were, to pick up a camera for the first time, to take a risk and JUST DO IT! The excitement and pride on their faces when they view their photos is just wonderful. Photography teaches you to be present and you will notice things you never did before.
I have been working with high school students this week in Nookenbah and Halls Creek. I have been invited back to Halls Creek in Term 4 to accompany the boys in the Ranger program. We will head out to Palm Springs with the cameras and they can show me their country in photos. We will also revisit the safety plan we talk about in class. It is essential students can identify who and where they can go to for help. This is probably the most important part of my talk. I tell them that my sister Jo is my best friend and she is my person I talk to when I am stressed. I am all for keeping things real in class, and I tell it like it is.
Mental health especially now during COVID, is an uncomfortable subject for most. It shouldn't be uncomfortable. We are experiencing a tsunami of mental health problems amplified by the effects of COVID. The shame of talking needs to go, and shame is a concept that is so dominant in Indigenous culture. I don't feel shame talking about my journey because I truly believe that all those dark moments in my life led me to be here and certainly made me a better nurse and person. Young men especially are most vulnerable as suicide rates are 3 times higher amongst men than women. We also talk about how to help a friend who is distressed. This is imperative as young people are more likely to seek help from friends and family first before accessing mental health services.
I am currently in Kununurra on my school roadtrip, but this time I am flying solo due to my videographers being in Queensland. I decided to still do my trip alone regardless and I have taken annual leave to do it. It's been incredible. This morning I woke to flocks of migrating geese and kangaroos around the mango plantation across from my unit. Kununurra is near the NT border so that gives you an idea of how far I am from Broome (1100 kms). Home to Lake Argyle, the size of 20 Sydney Harbours, it is full of majestic places to visit.
Travelling long distances solo involves a safety plan. This is my car safety plan for each trip I do.
- Tell 2 people where you are going. Let them know when you leave, estimated time of arrival and let them know when you get to your destination and where you are staying.
- Check tyre pressures before leaving with the air compressor to make sure it is working
- Have 2 spare tyres and don't skimp on tyres (Cooper tyres win for me)
- Esky and/or portable fridge
- Charge 2 way radio and pack all batteries
- Hire satellite phone if very remote for more than 1 day
- Pack at least 50L fuel and ample water
- Check oil, water, air filter and battery charge is ample
- Every charger packed for all appliances
- Pack portable Lithium battery charger
- Shovel, Maxtrax and all recovery gear
- First aid kit and extra towels and blankets
- Fire Extinguisher
- Check lights and spotlights working
- Tool set, headlamps, extra torches, swiss army knife
- And of course good coffee, enough food, extra snacks and dark chocolate, good music and Podcasts downloaded for those long drives.
I am so grateful to be on the road. I take safety seriously and I am definitely a LIST person. Travelling on your own for long stretches is tiring so I frequently stop to ensure fatigue doesn't set in. Stay safe wherever you are and most importantly I hope you have your own safety plan mapped out.