Ngapartji Ngapartji: You Give a Little, I Give a Little
Ngapartji Ngapartji: You Give a Little, I Give a Little
MERCY LIGHT: CONNECTING
“How is Sue?”
Selinda, a young artist and worker at Ninuku Arts Centre in Kalka, the closest neighbouring community to Pipalyatjara, asked me this question at the end of a long day, when a community barbeque cooked by St Aloysius College staff and students was drawing to a close. Selinda posed this question as I was quietly observing a heartwarming exchange between Anjali and Lilly, two of SAC’s Year 11 students, and Dolores, a respected elder, to whom Anjali had gifted a skirt she’d sewn.
That question, just three simple words, stopped me in my tracks, bringing to mind an image of the intrepid teacher who first led St Aloysius College students and staff to this remote corner of Australia back in 2010. I immediately thought, still noting Anjali and Lilly interaction with Dolores, “I wonder if Sue could have possibly foreseen the impact this cultural exchange would have on students more than a decade down the line?”
Sue Holoubek was the Social Justice Coordinator at SAC in 2010, and took a brave leap of faith in extending the hand of friendship to Pipalyatjara Anangu School. Sue had learnt of the school through former SAC staff member, Ginny Edgerley, who took on a teaching role in Pipalyatjara in the early 2000s and encouraged a cultural exchange between the two schools.
Selinda was just 16 years old when SAC first ventured to Pipalyatjara, a student herself. She later visited St Aloysius College with Pipalyatjara Anangu School and, like a number of students who were in Pipalyatjara when we first visited, has stayed in contact with Old Scholars and members of staff.
“How is Sue?” is a simple question but it carries deep and rich meaning. It symbolises the spirit of hospitality, care, connection and mutual respect we’ve been met with during nine subsequent visits to Pipalyatjara, across 13 years, with a gap in visits only due to the Covid-19 pandemic and APY Lands travel restrictions implemented to protect some of Australia’s longest surviving communities.
When we first ventured to Pipalyatjara, someone living in the community at the time quipped that, “we white people are like clouds, we come and we go.” And while SAC students and staff visit the community for what seems only a fleeting time, we’ve endeavoured to establish connections with the people of Pipalyatjara that enrich lives long-term. We’re harvesting fruits from the seeds first sewn 13 years ago by ensuring that the connections formed during our week in the APY Lands are nurtured throughout the year and that the stories are shared with the wider College community. There is a Pitjantjatjara saying, ‘Ngapartji Ngapartji’. It means, “you give a little and I give a little.” This saying truly reflects the beauty of the exchange between our SAC community and the children, adults and elders of Pipalyatjara and Kalka.
The reference to “Sue” acknowledges not only the significant contribution and impact of Mercy made by a member of our College community, but nods to the consistency and longevity of SAC’s connection with Pipalyatjara. This year, we caught up with a number of former students of Pipalyatjara Anangu School who, like Selinda, have visited SAC and are now adults; respected leaders in their own right. Verna, now aged 30, works at Nganampa Health Clinic in Pipalyatjara and has dreams of becoming a nurse. Verna proudly gave the SAC students a tour of the health clinic and shared some of the challenges of working in healthcare in a remote environment. Verna relished reconnecting with SAC staff, whom she calls her, “malpa wirus” – good friends.
SAC students and staff also caught up with Glenys, who attended SAC on a scholarship for a time. Glenys, also 30, now has her own young family, and our Year 11s enjoyed playing with her daughter, Sharika, in the early learning centre at Pipalyatjara Anangu School.
The 9 Year 11 students who visited Pipalyatjara this year entered the experience with open minds and hearts. They were not afraid to sink their hands into the dirt, quite literally, and help out wherever they could during their time in community. We congratulate these bold ambassadors.
- Alexis A
- Alicia R
- Anjali B
- Eleanor B
- Grace C
- Lilly H
- Pia V
- Sara B
- Tatum M
The students will be sharing insights into their visit to Pipalyatjara throughout 2024 and continuing to foster connections with those they encountered, while leading activities to fundraise for and support Pipalyatjara. You can read some of their initial, raw reflections below.
Early next year, SAC will be sending a delivery to our friends in Pipalyatjara with items purchased using funds raised from our barbecues. Thank you for your generous contributions to these, which helped us raise much-needed funds to support the community with supplies that are difficult for them to access in a remote location. Palya means thank you in Pitjantjatjara, so on behalf of our long-time friends in Pipalyatjara, we say palya to the SAC Community.
Ms Maddie Kelly
JAM Coordinator & Communications Officer
“Being able to spend time immersed within a community of people as welcoming as those in Pip will forever leave a strong positive impression upon my memories, my way of life, and my passion for change and equality.” – Eleanor
“Sara and I were sitting in the sandpit, filled with red dirt, just as you’d imagine in the desert, while the kids played and jumped off the roof of the cubby house and rocks, while the community sausage sizzle we held was finishing up. I took a mental photo of the two kids – Brianna and Julian – sitting on the top of the cubby house roof, the gloomy sky in the background, and their beautiful strong presence as they looked out at the sky. They were small people with gigantic hearts, who loved harder than you could imagine. They looked out for each other, comforted each other when one was afraid, held each other’s hands when something was too scary to conquer alone. While we played and watched them run a muck, Sara and I realized how special these kids were and how powerful their love for each other really was.” – Pia
“In the short time we all spent in Pip, I think it’s safe to say that all of our lives have been changed. The Pip community is a warm, welcoming, and bright community that has been incredible to witness and experience. We stomped through prickles with the joyful Pip kids on our backs as we waited to try our first maku (witchetty grubs). We helped them collect twigs, flowers and leaves for their art work and experienced a whole new type of heat in the bush. However, trying maku together was an experience that none of us will forget as well as all the memories that we made with the Pip community.” – Grace
“As Grace explained, our day trip to the bush was a truly magical experience full of culture, genuinity, and joy from the kids of Pip and Kalka. One of many incredible moments for me was when one of my new best friends, 8-year-old Brianna, walked up to me, showed me her Maku, and split it in half to share. Keep in mind the bush tucker that was worked hard for was only a few short centimetres long. This, along with many other moments, warmed my heart so much so, that this special part of my heart will forever stay in Pipalyatjara.
As soon as I arrived home, my mother could tell there was a part of me still there, she said to me, “You left your heart there didn’t you…” I nodded. Even now saying the kids’ names, I can’t help but smile. Another moment locked deep in my heart was when Brianna and I rested on our stomachs on the hot concrete beside the community swimming pool. When I wasn’t ordered to glide the children hanging from my back through the cold water, Brianna and I were face to face with our arms under our chins, just talking, kid to kid…I wish I could keep telling you every core memory that is still replaying through my head, but that would take days. I hope this reflection conveys the extent this trip completely changed my life.”- Sara
“Going into this trip, I expected to learn most about the land and aboriginal cultures and communities, but realistically, it provided so much more than that. From hearing everyone else speak, I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all learnt so much from the wholehearted and loving kids of Pip. Throughout our week, we all helped out in various classes around the school, providing us with an understanding of how the kids learn, and how much they value connection between each other. This once in a lifetime experience has allowed me to come away with a better understanding of myself and my sense of spiritual connection, prompting me to recognise the privilege I have in immersing myself in the lively, welcoming, and unique community of Pip.” – Lilly
“I, just like everyone else, feel changed after this trip. All of the Pip community, but particularly the kids, welcomed us into their lives and provided us an experience which we will never forget. From teaching the kids “apple on a stick” to give them shoulder rides so they could do the monkey bars, I now feel so connected to the community. Although this community is in our very own state, it feels like a different world. The connection to the land, community and culture is something I admire and wish we could follow here. The happiness the kids in Pip taught me is something I will treasure forever. I wish that everyone in this room could be as fortunate as me and get to experience this once in a lifetime opportunity. I know that is not the case, but I urge you all to get out of your comfort zone and apply to go on this very special cultural immersion, this life changing experience.” – Alexis