Thirty-three Aboriginal youngsters have just attended a special camp outside Glen Innes near Emmaville with the aim of keeping them in touch with their cultural roots.
It was organised by the Pathfinders organisation which works with Aboriginal young people who are in foster care.
Hilton Naden who was the driving force said: “It’s important to keep them in contact with their culture.”
The rule is that Aboriginal youngsters should be fostered with their close family or, at least, with Aboriginal families but since this isn’t always possible, non-Aboriginal foster parents are sometimes found.
According to Pathfinders, “a lot of these youth who were removed from their families struggle with their cultural identity, from the loss of cultural knowledge and traditions that would’ve been passed down through family connections.” Hence the need to set up a Cultural Camp.
Mr Naden said: “It was a huge success.”
It was held on an indigenous protected area on land owned by the Glen Innes Local Aboriginal Land Council.
The kids learnt about old ways of doing things. “These kids have never been exposed to Aboriginal culture. They didn’t know anything about traditional sites.”
The youngsters on it learnt about these sites from Elders. They also learnt practical things like how to skin and cook a kangaroo (already provided dead to them).
Mr Naden said: “Not only was the camp a success in connecting Koori (Aboriginal) kids back to their culture, They got to have fun!
“The camp bought sibling groups together, peers around the same age and they all had one thing in common: they were kids having fun and not just kids in care.
“They are no different than any other kid on holidays.
“They all went away having learnt some local language, Aboriginal site appreciation, and stories from Elders. They made and ate damper, roo stew and roo kebabs. The week was full of other activities such as kayaking, fishing numerous ball games.”