Young people from Trinity North Uniting Church and the remote Mowanjum Aboriginal Community, just outside of Derby in the Kimberley WA, spent an evening sharing stories over ice-cream in the January school holidays. The teenagers from Mowanjum were in Perth for a trip organised by the Boab Network, operating out of the Creative Living Centre at All Saints Floreat Uniting Church. The trip is part of their School Holiday Program, which engaged kids in fun activities when fewer activities are available in their area.
The Boab Network was formed by volunteers in 2007 after a call for help from Mowanjum Uniting Church because of a youth suicide crisis in the community. The network has since been organising the School Holiday Program to engage the young people in positive activities during school holidays, and have since expanded their programs due to its success.
At Trinity North Uniting Church, CREW is an informal program for high schoolers, encouraging them to build friendships and grow spiritually. CREW stands for Christians Ready Equipped and Willing.
“CREW have a genuine heart for service and actively seek opportunities to pay it forward in the wider community,” said Amanda Daly, a leader of CREW.
As part of their commitment to paying it forward, CREW raised $425 for the Boab Network School Holiday Camp through fundraising morning teas at church.
“CREW heard about the BOAB network when we had a guest speaker come to the church to share stories from the Mowanjum community,” said Amanda. “Hearing that suicide was high in the community, but had been reduced since the BOAB network were present was encouraging. We often find ourselves discussing mental health issues in wanting to be accepted and fitting in, so this fact spoke to the heart of the group and they were keen to reach out.
“We also heard about the camp as an initiative to encourage school attendance and that sometimes local groups come in to serve meals to the campers and we thought this was something we would like to get involved in.”
The young people from CREW met the young people from Mowanjum at the Ern Halliday Campsite before taking a sunset beach walk to Hillarys Boat Harbour for ice-cream. Any nerves felt soon subsided when the teenagers realised that though their lives may be vastly different, they still have so much in common.
“The walk was a great idea,” said Amanda. “Sometimes it is difficult for adolescents to initiate conversation and although excited, CREW were a little anxious, in fear of not being able to find a common ground with the kids and establish a connection.
“Very quickly they were surprised and thrilled to realise how similar they were. Most of the kids had phones and when one of the Boab girls started recording a TikTok and one of the CREW jumped in and danced beside her, they soon figured out a universal language in dance, movement and music.”
Tess Daly, a 15-year-old CREW member, said she has made lasting connections as a result of the evening.
“It was really fun,” she said. “I was anxious, but excited to meet the Mowanjum kids. It turned out to be so much better than I expected.
“I love that they know the same TikTok dances as me and that they have Snapchat, so we can keep in touch. I’ve spoken with them since they have gone back to their community and seen some photos of the rest of their family, which is awesome.”
Sarah Castelijns, aged 14 and also a CREW member, mentioned how despite being briefed on the Mowanjum kids living a different life to them, she also feels they “are just the same as us.”
The young people from Mowanjum returned home in time to settle in and start a new year at school. During their week-long stay in Perth they enjoyed all sorts of activities including visiting Scitech, playing basketball with the Joondalup Wolves, Kayaking on the Canning River, riding the Fremantle Tourist Wheel, and a visit to Optus Stadium – thanks to sponsors such as the Matilda Bay Rotary Club, the Hon Minister for Sport, and Transperth.
Find out more about the Boab Network and the work they do at boabnetwork.org
Top image: Teenagers from the remote Mowanjum Community spent an evening with teenagers from Trinity North Uniting Church during the January school holidays.