Groote Eylandt Diary – Part 3

AFL Queensland Development Coordinator Jeff Neumann is currently on secondment as the Regional Development Manager in the Northern Territory, on the remote island of Groote Eylandt.

Check out the previous two parts here;
Part 1 – Welcome to the Eylandt
Part 2 – Welcome is over, time to get down and work

The Power of Australian Rules

My opening fortnight has been a great experience both professionally and personally, honestly wouldn’t change it for the world.

The power of Australian Rules footy is unbelievable with its uncanny ability to turn a frown upside down in a heartbeat.

 In a place that (compared to SEQ) has devastating living conditions the locals continue to live in peace and be happy.

Yes, I have seen the darker side, but the majority of my time here I have seen the joyful, happy side that shows everyone’s true colours.

This week I continued in my set routine of school programs focusing on healthy life-style promotion and was assisting with a number of classes at Umbakumba School.

I’m not going to say I am an absolute genius at either maths or English but I was a high achiever throughout school.

It was astounding to witness 13-15 year old girls and boys struggling with basic addition and, to be honest, it hit a heart-string.

To the students’ credit, they dug in and actually accomplished more in that class than they had all term. I’d like to say it was due to my superb teaching skills, but the students worked as one, helping each other out with a few smiles and giggles along the way.

Throughout these classes I tried to implement ‘AFL’ into the classwork where possible, from fractions of how many people kicked a goal out of the ten who kicked, to spelling AFL teams.

It doesn’t matter where you go, everyone is the same and school students behave the same no matter if it is Groote Eylandt or Toowoomba. The boys sit at the front and the girls at the back and throughout the class a number of boys and girls passing notes to each other. Later Bobby, who I mentioned in part 2, was telling me one of the boys was trying to ask one of the girls out.

I’ve also witnessed the mucking around of students and in particular at Angurugu School. Yes it is very similar to how students’ muck around throughout schools elsewhere but this normal school-yard behaviour wasn’t so ‘normal’ to me.

I was kicking the footy with a few boys and a group of young students ran past yelling and carrying-on, they were shortly followed by a student no older than eight, running around with a stick and something hanging on the end.

This young eight-year was chasing the group around, he was smiling and laughing with a snake around 50cm and was scaring the group of much older boys.

He had it perfectly wedged on the end , oh … and it wasn’t alive I assure you. After these antics went on for probably another ten-minutes the whole ‘novelty’ of the snake on a stick wore off and the boys were done, back to kicking the footy with me.

I asked the boy ‘Byron’ how’d he found the snake and mentioned that (an) eagle had swooped down and eaten half the snake. He said that they normally chase each other.

Something I am definitely not accustomed to.

As my third week passed by, I witnessed a lot of enjoyable moments and none more so than on Thursday just gone.

 In recent times the communities Angurugu and Umbakumba had experienced some issues and just generally didn’t get along.

On Thursday we brought both communities together to play footy. A small group of 20 to 25 boys and girls, aged between 13 to 17 got together to play. It wasn’t community V community or school V school, as we mixed the teams up for the boys and girls game.

 At first all were a bit tentative to talk or even approach the other. In the end the game went for over 30 minutes and our game created a harmony between these two communities that for so long had been fighting.

Though it was only a short time frame, hopefully it is the first step in bringing these two communities together.

The power of our great game is unbelievable, bringing people from all cultures and backgrounds together as one. I am definitely one lucky person.

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