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The Year 11 Youth Leadership Program participants Lincoln Atkinson, Chenneil Fowler and Grace Jones recently had the opportunity to go on a trip to tropical Cairns, where they got to meet and learn about local mobs and the community work that’s happening, meet with universities and experience the major tourist sites in Far North Queensland.

Continue reading below to find out about the deadly activities and experiences the Youth Leadership Program participants got to enjoy.

If you’re in Year 10 and enrolled in Ganbina’s Education program, you may be eligible to apply for the Youth Leadership Program for 2024. Contact your Project Officer to find out more.

DAY 1 – Kangaroos, koalas, cultural experience and Skyrails over the rainforest

The participants commenced their first day in Cairns by travelling to the Kuranda Rainforest tour. Once they arrive the participants explored the wildlife enclosure, where they fed kangaroos and joeys and interacted with koalas and crocodiles. The students then took the Army Duck Rainforest Tour, where the tour guide explained that the Army Duck was used in World War II. The guide also spoke about the local Indigenous people and the native plants that were used for bush medicines back in the day. Then it was time to head to the koala enclosure where the students got a chance to have a photo and learn about them with the koala keepers.

From there it was time for the cultural experience with the Pamagirri Aboriginal Guide for a boomerang throwing lesson. The guide taught the students about the different styles of boomerangs and their original purpose, before asking them to have a go at throwing a returning boomerang. Once this was finished the guide conducted a spear throwing demonstration and explained the different spear throwing techniques. We then ended the engagement with a traditional dance performance for the group, which the students highly enjoyed.

Once the activities at the Kuranda Rainforest were complete, the group headed to the Kuranda town centre where they explored the local arts and crafts market, before exploring the Kuranda Skyrail. The Skyrail featured breathtaking scenery, which included short stops at the stunning Baron Falls and Red Peak. The students were nervous at the start, but really enjoyed taking in the stunning scenery of one of the world’s oldest Tropical Rainforest.

DAY 2 – Connecting with and learning from local mobs

Today was dedicated to speaking with two Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, to learn about the establishments of organisations and the work that’s happening in their communities. The first organisation the students visited was Balkanu Cape York Development Corporation. The staff spoke in-depth about Native Land Title and the Sea and Land that has been successfully handed back over to Traditional Owners. The group watched a documentary of ceremony of one of the successful Native Land Title hand backs and were shown a visual map that demonstrates and highlights which areas have been handed back. The students were intrigued with how large the Cape area is.

The second organisation on the agenda was the Cape York Partnership. The students were welcomed with lunch and greeted by Krista, the Cape York Leadership Program Scholarships Manager, who then continued on with introductions and presented about the organisation’s leadership program and the opportunities they provide.

The students heard about many different engaging programs at the Cape York Partnership but the one that stood out the most was the Mayi Markets, where they learnt about the challenges remote Indigenous communities in the Cape York region face when it comes to finding reasonably priced food and daily necessities. The students were amazed at how expensive basic food can cost in remote regions due to the wet season and compared to urbanised communities like Shepparton. The visit ended with each leadership participant being gifted a Cape York Leadership Program jumper from Krista and the team.


DAY 3 – Mandingalbay Authentic Indigenous Tours: 100% owned and operated by Mandingalbay Yidinji Aboriginal Corporation

Today the students were fortunate enough to be with The Mandingalbay Yidinji People who have owned, occupied, cared for, and sustainably used their traditional lands located east of Cairns for thousands of years. The travel started from Cairns Marlin Marina and the group travelled through the mangroves where the salty sea water meets the mountain freshwaters. Once the group arrived they were welcomed to Mandingalbay Yidnji Peoples Country with a smoking ceremony by an elder speaking traditional language. After being welcomed, the group conducted a rainforest trail where the students learnt about the local native foods and bush medicines, as well as what local trees and plants were used for weaving and weapons. Once the walk was finished, the group enjoyed a morning tea and the guides spoke about the weapons and tools traditionally used

After morning tea, the group was shown a sculptural 3D map of Mandingalbay Yidinji Peoples Country, where they were taught about how the Traditional Owners would walk out to the ocean and onto an island during low tide to set traps for hunting and gathering. On the travel back the group spotted a baby crocodile relaxing on the mangroves bank. We then arrived back in Cairns and walked along the esplanade where they learnt about the Citizens Gateway to the Great Barrier Reef sculpture and the creation story. This sculpture is 11m wide and 6m high, portraying a wave of sea creatures and birds led by a life-size stingray.

DAY 4 – Exploring education opportunities after Year 12

The fourth day of the trip focused on further education opportunities and support for Indigenous students, with a visit to both CQUniversity Cairns and James Cook University. The first stop was CQUniversity’s city campus in Cairns, where the students met Indigenous Support Officer Toni. She spoke about her role, study and career pathways on offer, as well as the support provided for Indigenous students. Afterwards the student met with the Performing Arts teacher who spoke about the different study areas available and toured the performing arts facilities. Lincoln finished off our visit showcasing his skills on their Grand Piano.

Once the tour at CQUniversity was finished, we stopped and had lunch in Smithfield and then travelled to James Cook University Smithfield campus. The students met with the Indigenous liaison officer and a mature-aged Indigenous student, who gave them a campus tour before going to a lecture room to have a yarn about the course and options provided. Afterwards the participants toured the JCU student’s accommodation, where they were shown the communal facilities including study areas and a gym. The tour ended with a visit to the Indigenous unit for an afternoon snack and presentation about the support on offer for Indigenous students and learnt about the JCU summer and winter camps offered to all Indigenous students in year 10 to 12 that was hosted in Townsville at the JCU campus.

DAY 5 – Diving the Great Barrier Reef

The final day of the trip began with an early start to the Great Barrier Reef Dreamtime Cruise and Dive. Once the students arrived on the cruise they were suited up with their snorkelling gear and made the travel out to the Great Barrier Reef. We were welcomed by an Indigenous guide and heard about the Great Barrier Reef’s traditional creation story. The students also heard from a Marine Biologist and heard about the many different traditional sea creatures that live and occupy the Great Barrier Reef. Upon arriving at the reef the students enjoyed a 45-minute guided snorkelling session. Once this was done the participants had a buffet lunch, before traveling to the second stop off at the Great Barrier Reef where they completed the Scuba Diving exploring the reef.

The group enjoyed sitting out on bow and enjoyed the sun – until the weather changed and it started raining! We then departed back to Cairns where the Indigenous guide showed traditional weapons, played the didge, and hosted an activity where they used traditional fire tools to try and get a spark to start a fire. Lincoln gave this a go but found it harder than it looks! With the activities completed for the day, the group headed back to the hotel to get ready to go back to Shepparton the next morning.

Would you like to experience something like this? If you’re a Ganbina participant and in Year 10, you may be eligible to apply for the Ganbina Youth Leadership Program. Speak to your Project Officer to find out more.