For two weeks in July, a group of eight students from Bond volunteered their time to facilitate a holiday program for the Indigenous children in the rural community of Kununurra, in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.
The Kununurra project - a student-led initiative of the Bond University Student Philanthropy in conjunction with the international organisation Save the Children - has stamped itself onto the hearts of the Bond students who took part.
For two weeks they ran basketball competitions, played endless soccer and ping pong games, acted as human paint canvases and were swamped with hugs and requests for piggy-back rides from the Indigenous kids they worked with.
Student Bridie O’Sullivan said the trip left her questioning how much responsibility Australia is taking for these children.
“Before I left for the Kununurra Project, I asked myself why Save the Children, an international child protection agency typically present in developing countries, has to intervene in Australia?” Bridie said.
“Paul Kah Nutt and the Save team in Kununurra know every child by name, their story and they do a fantastic job. We were the extra hands they so desperately needed for the school holidays.”
Bridie bonded particularly with a young girl while on the Project, whom she later found out had been removed from her home with her siblings by child protection services.
“The background story doesn’t match the affectionate, trusting child that we met – their resilience is incredible,” she said.
Drug and alcohol abuse is a significant problem within the Indigenous community of Kununurra, and as a result many children feel safer on the streets than they do at home. Programs like the Kununurra Project give the kids a safe, recreational environment to be kids especially during the school holidays.
Courtney McDade, student and Logistics Director of the Kununurra Project said what the students received in return for their involvement was incredible.
“Our volunteers are always dedicated to giving a positive experience to the kids of Kununurra, but we’ve found that the Project also leaves a significant impact on the participating Bond students,” Courtney said.
“Involvement in the Project allows the students to learn about a culture-rich community and often fosters a passion for Indigenous affairs. We’ve had previous participating students go on to work with the Aurora Project and in other Indigenous related positions.”
The Kununurra Project committee are investigating areas of expansion, including sending more volunteers to the wider Kimberley region.
However, this is not without significant cost, one which the Project committee are dedicated to minimize for the student volunteers, by actively fundraising and seeking sponsorship from the Gold Coast community.