Community Campout bringing people together

More than 200 members of the St Stephen’s School community enjoyed a night under the stars at the School’s inaugural Community Campout.

Although temperatures dropped below zero, nothing could dampen the warmth and community spirit of the event. St Stephen’s School has owned the 115-acre property in Dwellingup, which was recently renamed The Kaadadjan Centre, for several years. It is opposite Lane Poole Reserve and is bound by the Murray River, Bibbulmun Tracks and Munda Biddi Trails. It has been used  mostly for Outdoor Education and camps, but the school has been working to open it up to more curriculum areas for learning and enjoyment by the wider school community.

Research and work with local Nyungar Elders uncovered rich Indigenous links with the area and more learning opportunities for students. The site was gifted the new name by Binjareb Elder, George Walley, which translates to ‘The Knowledge Centre’. The school commissioned an artwork by Nyungar artist, Nerolie Bynder to tell its story, which she entitled Good Knowledge, Good Spirits, Good Place.

The Community Campout aimed to re-introduce the community to the site as its new identity and engage people with the learning opportunities it offered. Once everyone arrived, the Campout was officially opened by Tim Brewer, School Council member, and Donella Beare, Principal, who told the story of the property, explained Nyungar traditions that welcome the land and finished  with a prayer over the weekend provided by George Walley.

Families then spent the afternoon taking part in a series of workshops, bushwalking, playing sports and games, including a fiercely contested tug of war. Workshops included making billy tea and damper over the camp fires with the team from The Forest Discovery Centre, choc-chip mining with Alcoa and an Aboriginal Art workshop with Urban Indigenous and Sheila Humphries.

Donella said the event was heartwarming, and one that will be stamped in the school’s 35-year history, which has been celebrated in 2019.

“You know those moments in life where you will be somewhere and it is almost like everything slows down to allow you to take in all of the goodness?” she asked. “That is what I, and some others I have spoken to, felt at our campout.

“For some, this was their first taste of camping and the great outdoors and it was so wonderful to be a part of being able to bring it to them.”

Everyone enjoyed a sausage sizzle for lunch, burgers at dinner and toasting marshmallows by the fire at the fully catered weekend, before the children gathered for an outdoor movie under the stars. While the day had been blessed with warm, sunny weather, the chill came in as many retreated to their tents and caravans at night, waking to an icy morning gathering around the fires for a breakfast fry-up.

Children then went on a treasure hunt for special gold and red honky nuts that encouraged them to work together and explore. Rugged up in scarves and beanies they were enthusiastic about  the quest – and the prizes.

“We have really been focusing on the value of community this year, particularly as we celebrate our 35th year since welcoming students, and I think it was really evident at our campout,” Donella said. “We had families from primary and secondary, teachers and administration staff and executive from both our Carramar and Duncraig campuses getting to know each other in a really  different environment – spending the time outdoors tends to really bring everyone together.”

Katie Lee

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