Macquarie Staff Q&A: Nicole Athanasopoulos
What were your expectation and what were you discover on arriving?
It’s good to go with a clear open mind and have no expectations- it is volunteer work after all. Being the Northern Territory I was expecting hot weather which was felt straight away! The best way to describe what I discovered on arrival is that it resembled camp. We received very warm welcomes from the moment we stepped foot onto the Island (Tiwi College).
Did the trip meet your expectations?
The experience definitely went above and beyond my expectations. I am involved in and participate in different types of volunteer work throughout the year however this altogether was such a different and amazing experience. I would encourage everyone who can to get involved. It’s important to give back to the community and the trip reminds you that it’s the little things in life that matter. The trip was inspiring because we experienced the Tiwi culture, attended the community dinner and we assisted children with their literacy. The college itself is well resourced and the campus is vibrant which allows for the learning and development of the students.
Was there enough interaction with the children and do you find it culturally interesting?
Interacting with the Tiwi children was certainly a highlight. I attended both the middle school girls class and the senior girls class. The middle school class is a composite class made up of 21 girls ranging from Year 7 to Year 10. Here, the girls were learning about personalities and I was able to assist with writing, brainstorming and reading. The girls have so much respect towards each other and were willing to help each other out.
I also attended the quiz night. Here we worked in groups of four. The kids are full of life and after the quiz they spoke about their siblings and interests they have. Most have a passion about AFL and music. The kids were also happy to hear about our experiences and what we enjoy doing. I spoke about Greek culture and spoke in the language (counted in Greek and said the alphabet for them) and they were very intrigued.
We learnt about Tiwi art and how it is used to explain the universe and the place of people in it. We attended the senior girl’s art class. They are very passionate and talented at art. We were also fortunate enough to paint with Tic-Tac, a very talented Tiwi artist.
How did you find your accommodation and transfers?
There was ample time to organise my SYD to DRW, DRW to SYD flights.
Kelly was also very helpful with our Darwin to Tiwi Flights. It’s not a long flight and everything went smoothly.
Wilderness and nature experience? What was the highlight?
Going fishing at Goose Creek was definitely a highlight. Being my first time fishing I certainly wasn’t disappointed. I got to experience a bull shark catching onto my bait. This has definitely set the bench mark for my future fishing expeditions! What also stood out was Goose Creek’s beauty. Surrounded by a plethora of eucalyptus trees, fresh water, the greenery of the bushland and dainty water lilies all contributed to a picture perfect day. Being amongst the wildlife we also spotted three crocodiles one of which was dragging what looked like it’s lunch for the day- a large buffalo.
The ride itself was also fun. James and Guy kept us entertained talking about their life experiences, knowledge of fishing and passed on a few handy hints.
What did you think of the garden build to date?
The garden was one of my favourite aspects at the Tiwi College. The progress of the garden is beyond amazing. There is a unique structure to it and it is very cultivated. The garden is symbolic and gives students the opportunity to undertake garden based apprenticeships. To date we saw a range of fruits and vegetables such as watermelons, pineapples, cucumbers, cauliflowers planted and the students (with the help of Jason) are responsible for the produce. Some students may find school a challenge, so the beauty about the garden is that it still gives students the opportunity to contribute to school life as students are given responsibilities. This really assists with their personal development. The garden reminds students that there are options in learning beyond the class room. I would like to commend Jason as he is really passionate about the garden and makes sure that everything is kept in order.
Would you recommend the trip to others?
Without a doubt. If you can involve yourself in any volunteer work this is what I would suggest you take part in. The spirit at the college really involves you and makes you understand the Tiwi culture. The school provides a great support unit to the students and learning opportunities for them. The experience also reminds you not to take things for granted and be respectful to everything you have.
A big shout out to Guy Reynolds for what he has achieved. #AmazingWork
Thanks for the experience!