Cherbourg Community Christmas Visit
Each time we take a group of Langports Students out to visit the Cherbourg community, we look forward to giving them a unique experience.
Why is it so unique?
To start with, we go inland, into the vast expanse of Australia’s Outback. The term Outback or Bush is given to the vast lands of wilderness that make up large parts of Australia. The ‘Bush’ that we drove through for about four hours, once we had left behind the outskirts of Brisbane, was mainly large expanses of grass dotted with trees or forest areas of eucalyptus gum trees.
When we had climbed up the ranges, we drove through Bunya tree forests until we reached the area about 20kms from Cherbourg that have been planted with vines and olive trees! Our final destination, Cherbourg, is situated in cleared farmland mainly laid to grass and trees.
Cherbourg was once an ‘Australian Mission’. This can be defined as a piece of land where Government officials could forcibly place Aboriginal people who had been removed from their lands to live together in one place under law.
Cherbourg was governed by a ‘white’ Superintendent who ran the Mission for the Australian Government of the time. No Aboriginal person came to this Mission by choice. They were unable to leave without permission and worked for no pay until 1964. The history of this community has been recorded and the Aboriginal Elders have restored historic buildings in which they display the story of Cherbourg. They called it The Ration Shed.
The Ration Shed Museum has a fascinating way of recording the town’s story, through films where they have interviewed the Elders, a timeline poster with great historic photos and the Elders who chat and guide you around the buildings. Our Cultural Guide was named Roko and he was able to tell us many stories as we quietly painted in the Art shed, surrounded by beautiful Aboriginal paintings. His son, also an artist, painted alongside us and played a Didgeridoo he was painting. Later, his grandchildren also joined us.
After we had learned and spoken to the guides at The Ration Shed, we drove to the nearest town, Murgon, where we stayed in a clean and friendly outback Motel. We invited two Elders, Grace and Warry John Stanley, who lived in Cherbourg when it was a Mission, to join us for a typical Aussie roast dinner!
After our meal, we reflected on our visit to The Ration Shed and were able to ask questions directly to two lovely souls who had lived during those times. It was incredible to have been able to spend time with them and our students were especially touched to have been able to.
The next day, we were up early to be at Cherbourg State School to start our school experience.
Our purpose was to deliver a book to each student and a special backpack to one boy and one girl in each class. The special backpack prizes were awarded for consistent hard work and attendance at school all year. Langports Gold Coast students had raised the money for this by having a wonderful Christmas Party at Cocktails. A big thank you to Cocktails for donating $2000 to our fundraiser and Shane for organising it all.
Sonia Vivo - Student from Spain
Cibele Januario and Samara Caballito - Students from Brazil
Evan and Fabian - Students from Switzerland
Luana Savinelli - Student from Switzerland
Benjamin Pageaud and Felicie Langlamet - Students from France
Nora Boagatu - Student from Switzerland
Our students split up into different classes and each one had a special experience. I will let you read some of their reflections.
Sandra Staub from Switzerland:
It was an amazing experience that I will never forget. This day with the children was wonderful. These kids gave me so much love and put a smile on my face. I will never forget them. I loved to share my time with them, they had so much energy!
I was nearly going to cry when I had to leave them. I am so thankful for this day and want to say that’s to all the people in Cherbourg who made it possible.
Luana Savinelli from Switzerland:
I will never forget these 2 days! Especially the happy faces of the children when they opened their xmas presents! To make other people happy is one of the best things you can do!
Tanja Huber from Switzerland (on the right):
The trip was just amazing. I’ve learned a lot about the Aborigines. It‘s hard to know how they lived because of the other people. The stories from the real Aborigines and the visit in the school was emotional.
When the kids received their present, they were so happy. I think I‘ve never seen such happy kids. They smiled while they had tears in their eyes. The kids were so happy that they had someone who played with them. They enjoyed the visit and I enjoyed it as well.
I‘m very thankful for Susie and John. It was the best experience I ever have had.
We hope you have enjoyed learning about this project for the Langports Foundation. Just trying to ‘make a difference’.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Susie and John France.