We love being part of the Cathy Freeman Horizons Program and the places it takes us. Our most recent camp was in Darwin- the northernmost tropical capital city of Australia, a former frontier outpost gazes across the Timor Sea. It is the gateway to the world renown Kakadu National Park. It has some of the most pristine beachfronts overlooking gorgeous boat lined waters and green areas like Bicentennial Park.  Darwin has so much to offer and there are more crocodiles in the Northern Territory than anywhere else in the world.

The humidity on our day of arrival was at 85% and the hot temperature that we walked out into from Darwin airport was a great reminder that we were longer in the cooler jumper wearing climate of Victoria. The reality was that the Cottage by the Sea Staff Ebony, Troy, Locky and Jae were in the very sunny Northern Territory. The look on Troy’s face said it all, the sunshine was a warm welcome and it was also a welcome home for our new staff member Locky.

The Darwin Grade 5/6 Horizon students had travelled by Hardy Aviation, an 81.4km from Wurrumiyanga Bathurst Island and a huge 515kms from Galiwin’ku. A daunting week away from family, friends and their communities exploring all that Darwin had to offer staying at the Michael Long Learning and Leadership Centre. The 15 students were selected for, leadership, to build confidence, for educational reasons, for role modelling positive behaviours, and cultural pride and exchange of stories and language. We were greeted by bright eyes and smiling faces, a great start to camp.

Our first point of call was to get all of the students, staff and leaders settled into the MLLLC, fed lunch and a welcome to country. Kelsey introduced the Horizon’s program, the staff, and played some ice breaker games to ease the students into the week. The group set up some camp expectations and guidelines so that all parties would be focusing on having fun in a safe manner.

While in Darwin, we explored the city. We travelled by buses to many cultural and educational attractions. Some of the activities included basket weaving for the girls by Norma from Starwin Social Enterprise. Locky and Troy took the boys to Austin Lane to see a huge painting of the late Dr G Yunupingu on the side of Carpentaria House painted by artists Andrew J Bourke and local indigenous artist Jesse Bell.  

We drove to Corroboree Billabong which is part of the Mary River wetlands. We cruised the Corroboree Billabong with our guide who gave us so much detail on the area. We learnt that the Billabong was home to the largest concentration of saltwater crocodiles in the world. We enjoyed spotting a few crocodiles plus a huge array of birds and other local wildlife in their natural setting. The students shared language and translated different animals along the way.

The students participated in a session with AMRRIC (Animal Management in Rural and Remote Indigenous Communities) and the Ark Vet and learnt about the links between human and animals. The AMIRRIC staff spoke about looking after a family pet and what exactly that entails.  The students were introduced to ‘Toby’ the dog and they were able to help bath him.

There were so many activities on the itinerary, some not listed but other activities included breakfast at Bakewell Primary school in Palmerston organised by the student voice positive choice coalition - an art forms workshop, a session on being an art curator art at the Art Museum of NT, jumping on trampolines at Flip out, bowling and laser tag at King Pin and swimming at Leanyer Recreation Park, the pool at the MLLLC and Berry National park.  

By Friday, all students were not as eager to rise early out of bed as they were tired and keen to get some extra rest before the day’s activities. There was still so much to do before they set off home.  Shopping was a high priority for these 15 students but not before they made their families, their school and themselves very proud by standing up in front of the group and delivering speeches. The Principal from Galiwin’ku was extremely proud of the way his students spoke especially since some of them were so shy at the beginning of camp. Shopping was the final highlight of the camp and most of the students bought so many gift for their friends and families. We shuttled the students, the Principal, teachers and CFF program coordinators back to Hardy’s Aviation where the week all began. We had just finished off a great week with these amazing students and hi- fives were given  all round as we said our farewells.

Once again, thank you for the opportunity that our Cottage by the Sea staff have to work alongside the Cathy Freeman Foundation. We are extremely fortunate to be able to travel to numerous states around the country and experience many wonderful cultural and educational activities with some amazing students. Our CBTS staff go into every camp with great enthusiasm and appreciation. We are thankful for the teaching staff and the dedication of the CFF who make the Horizon’s Program what it is today!