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Showing posts from April, 2014

Teaching Australia's True History to Young People

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Many people are willing to admit they’re ‘bad with names’. Whilst I’m not too shabby in that regard, I have to confess, I am absolutely pathetic at remembering historical dates. When was World War 2? No idea. What year did Bert Newton retire from Good Morning Australia? No idea (although I was so devastated I really should know). When was I born? OK that I do know, but probably because I’ve had plenty of practise writing it on a form. In fact, I only learnt my mum’s birth year a few years ago to be able to key it in to pay a phone bill. Point proven- my brain’s memory malfunctions as soon as I hear any four digit number directly after the words ‘in’ or ‘on’. Anyway, I know there are plenty of you reading this nodding in agreement, that you too, are ‘bad at dates’. Which is why I’ve created a very brief (and I use the word very because I’m probably missing some vital events that would outrage historians) timeline to lowlight some key dates in Australia’s history that have had devastating…

What is Machado-Joseph Disease and How is it Caused?

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‘Groote Eylandt Syndrome’. The first time I came across this term, I thought it was referring to the relaxed state of the people living here and their innate love for all things outdoors. However, luckily before I adopted this term as a way of describing how much I loved my new lifestyle, I learned that it’s actually the common name for a horrific neurodegenerative disorder called Machado-Joseph Disease (MJD). MJD is one disease you’ve probably never heard of and will never have to worry about personally. That’s because it’s a hereditary disorder mainly carried by Indigenous people living in the Northern parts of Australia. MJD causes progressive deterioration of muscle control and coordination and can affect children as young as 10. The first symptoms of MJD can appear at any stage of life and once those symptoms are present, it can take anywhere between 5-10 years before the sufferer is no longer able bodied and requires full-time care. The initial symptoms of MJD are feeling unbalanc…

Adapting to Life on Groote Eylandt

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As I pedalled my clunky 70s Repco bike up the hill towards the Dugong Beach Resort, a wallaby bounced along only metres beside me. We stopped suddenly, turned and faced one another with caution and questioned who was following who. The wallaby quickly decided the risk was too great to find out, and bounced off into the low, nearby shrubs.


There’s a great deal of wildlife on the island, most of which I’ve only ever seen in books. Because I’m forced to walk or cycle everywhere (although I’d usually choose to anyway) I’ve started to become more aware and appreciative of my surroundings. I study the branches of the frangipani trees. My eyes track all sky activity, just in case something colourful or unusual glides overhead. I walk cautiously in long grass, eyes peeled for scales. I’ve been warned that the island is teaming with a variety of venomous and non-venomous snakes; I cannot decide whether I’m relieved or mildly disappointed that I’m yet to see either type. I never had a genuine int…

Missionaries, Monetaries & Misfits Living on Groote Eylandt

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“What do you do?” is the standard (almost obligatory) question you ask upon meeting someone in Melbourne, despite whether you’re actually interested in listening to the answer. Often, awkward questions follow such as “What is that exactly?” or “So, do you enjoy it?” until a socially acceptable amount of time has passed and you can move onto trying to determine how you may have mutual friends (discussing ol’ mate Jono will keep the convo rolling).


On Groote Eylandt however, no questions are asked without an amount of intrigue and curiosity by both short and long term residents. “So what brings you to the island?” is always drawn out of the question barrel early in the game. Closely followed by “Are you here alone?”  According to my neighbour, there are only three distinct answers to the first question.
A)Missionary. You want to change the world for greater good & will do anything to see social justice prevail.

B)Monetary. You want to make more money & get free rent by doing the sa…

My New Home: Alyangula on Groote Eylandt

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The weather is warm and sticky and I couldn’t be happier. I departed cloudy Melbourne at 8:30am and arrived in Groote Eylandt nine hours later. Alyangula is confined to a small area west of the island and after driving around for five minutes, I’d travelled down most streets in both directions.


This is the view from the end of my street.



Many community buildings have been decorated with murals & artwork.
The plant life is luscious and green. The air has a familiar damp, tropical smell with the delightful addition of frangipani wafting in and out. There are no footpaths so I choose to risk walking on the road in trade of getting my shoes soaked through.


Miners’ four-wheel drives and utes casually roll up and down the streets. Coming from a metro city bursting with lights, sounds and a population well over four million, I find the streets here eerily quiet. As I cut through park land to get to my school, I can hear a whipping, crackling noises, like that of an angry power pole. I’ve s…

Leaving Melbourne to Teach on a Remote Island

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These photos were taken during my last weekend as a Melbourne resident. Friends gathered to say goodbye and wish us well on our adventure ahead. Whilst we all said our goodbyes, it was, and still is hard to imagine not seeing them face-to-face for the remainder of the year. Whilst I am sad to say goodbye to old friends (for now), I look forward to meeting new ones. Hopefully they will be at least one third as hilarious, extravagant, creative and kind-hearted as those who came to share food, stories and laughs one last time.


Adrian & I enjoying our friends' company. 






I wouldn’t expect anything less from these creative, spontaneous women- Tam & Liz. Catch ya laterz Melbourne.  xoxox

Aboriginal Artefacts Teaching Resource For Primary Students

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The moving van is well and truly on its way to Groote Eylandt . Can you find and name the Indigenous artifacts packed amongst our belongings? Hint: there are 12 objects to find!

WARNING: The answer sheet is just below the activity sheet.




Could you find all 12?
Check your answers below and find out the significance of each artifact to Indigenous culture.



1. Turtle Shell - Turtles are a traditional food source for Indigenous people. The meat is cooked over hot coals and other parts of the turtle are turned into combs, spoons and fishing hooks. Turtles are usually hunted with a spear from a canoe or small boat. The turtle egg is also eaten and is said to be very nutritious.

2. Boomerang- A carved wooden object mainly used as a weapon for hunting. The boomerang has a curved design so that when thrown correctly, will return itself to the thrower. When used in this way, it is usually for recreational purposes (for fun & games). It can also be used as clapsticks to create musical rhymes. 

3. …