Late last year, a group of six footballers took a trip to the remote town of Yuendumu, located three hours north-west of Alice Springs, to take part in a Red Dust health promotion tour, through the AFL Players Care program.
As part of the trip, Trent Dumont, Courtney Cramey, Jarman Impey, Nick Larkey, Alicia Janz and Ally Anderson documented their experiences for aflplayers.com.au. Over the course of the week, you can read about what they learned and experienced. Here is Trent’s diary entry.
Trent Dumont – Sunday, October 13 (aflplayers.com.au)
Aboriginal culture is quite unknown to me and I wanted to learn more about it so when I heard about a Red Dust trip to Yuendumu, I took the opportunity.
I knew our history was terrible in terms of the extreme impact white settlement had on our First Nations Peoples, but the depth of my understanding was poor.
I also wanted to learn more about the beauty of this culture and work towards celebrating it in the future. The experience I had in Yuendumu has allowed me to begin my journey to learn and grow my understanding of Aboriginal culture and also grow as a person.
Immersing myself in the community was a strong motivation – I didn’t necessarily know what to expect, but I was open to experiencing as much as possible. I wanted to give myself the best opportunity to understand Indigenous culture, its history and the differences between two groups of civilisations within the same country.
Red Dust always interested me as well. I had a couple of North Melbourne teammates who went along on a trip last year and I couldn’t go. They were glowing in their endorsement of it, so it seemed like a no-brainer to go along this year.
I got in from Bali on Saturday night, packed my bags, got up early on Sunday and flew out of Melbourne at 9am with my great teammate, Nick Larkey. We got into Alice Springs at about midday where we met some Red Dust staff and a couple of volunteers – one being Alicia Janz, who plays for West Coast’s AFLW team.
We were picked up from the airport, went to meet the rest of the Red Dust crew, had some lunch and received a briefing of what to expect.
For us, it was all about being open and honest with how we were feeling and also being respectful to the community. There was one of the community liaisons there, Alan Palmer, a proud Aboriginal man from Alice Springs, and he was able to give us some history lessons and tell us some stories as we were heading to Yuendumu and throughout the entire trip.
It was a three-hour drive to Yuendumu and I drove with Scott Stirling, Red Dust CEO, and Alicia, a proud Torres Strait Islander woman, so they gave some great information about Indigenous culture and what to expect once we arrived.
When we got to Yuendumu, I’d never seen anything quite like it. I noticed how barren the land was, the housing setup and the amount of rubbish that was around.
The rubbish was an interesting topic because for so long Indigenous people lived off the land and all of a sudden they were introduced to plastics with no education on how to dispose of them properly, resulting in what I first saw when entering Yuendumu.
This is the sort of thinking we were introduced to by the Red Dust staff; we were challenged to look deeper than the surface issue.
We stayed at the government building. We didn’t do a huge amount on that first night, we had dinner and discussed how we were feeling or what we were thinking – we did this each night, to learn from and support each other. Nick and I jumped in our swags and slept out the front of the building on the first night.
It was a strange night to say the least – I was woken up by a horse running its head straight into the fence out the front. There were stray animals everywhere and ‘Larks’ was snoring!
I really wanted to have an open mind, throw away any judgement and soak it all in. We knew that, in time, we’d be able to get a greater understanding of why things are the way they are.
The biggest thing that I felt about those communities before was that if I had driven past those towns, my thoughts would be ‘Wow, they’re pretty unlucky to be living out here like that’. But after a week of experiencing what it was actually like, I was almost jealous of what the community had – it was such a tight knit community.
They have so much love for others and were so accepting of us into their community without even knowing who we were. I really fed off that and had one of the best experiences I’ve ever had!
Another thing for me was that I’ve just started scratching the surface of our country’s history. Some of the stuff we heard was grim in terms of our past, including the Coniston massacre, and I’d obviously heard about intergenerational trauma.
But hearing it all together with experiencing the community’s issues has me wanting to learn more to better my understanding, better myself as a person and better Australia’s future story.
After a whirlwind Red Dust experience, I realised how much I loved being part of the community in Yuendumu. We were leaving and I was sad to say goodbye to everyone, especially the kids we worked with at the school each day.
I’d tell anyone if they had an initial interest in experiencing something like this that they need to follow up with it because having that interest is only going halfway there.
Go and find out the rest of it. There’s a massive history and an amazing culture a lot of people (like me) don’t know a lot about and we are all living in the same country. It’s insane that we’re living in the same place, the same land and that it’s all on our doorstep.
We don’t have to travel far to learn so much. You’ll take away plenty about the culture and yourself.
Photo: Red Dust