Excursion to North Stradbroke Island

Catherine Volkov Coordinator, Student Liaison


May 20, 2015

The morning coffee is served beachside from a mobile van under a pandanus tree by a barista in bathers. We watch migrating whales and streamlined turtles from the rocky shore, and cavorting dolphins from our bobbing surfboards. An ebbing tide reveals a colony of soldier crabs, within their collective hum, scuttling away as human feet impede. The sulphuric waft of mangroves permeates the breeze, their spring growth budding in bursts of neon green. Our kayaks are propelled by a gusty tail wind, weaving amongst fisherman on the prowl for their daily catch. Adrenaline soars as we ride on waxed boards down blistering sand dunes. The percussive pulse of the clap sticks accompanies the earthy resonance of the didgeridoo, as we groove in dance traditions of ancestors gone by. Southern stars illuminate the sky by night and the mighty sun glares its rays by day. All the while the murmurs of the ocean are an uninterrupted constant. For this is North Stradbroke Island: where moments of the everyday convey familiar urban rhythms with an island twist. Island living suggests a place of limited resources in contrast to the seemingly continual abundances of city life. Time seems slower here, away from cell phone reception and the daily grind. Rhythms of the everyday are shifted as one’s mindset moves from the speeds and tensions of metro beats to expansive spaces that open for a pondering daily flow.

Students comment on becoming attuned to Aboriginal rhythms, in gaining a glimpse of our world’s longest continuous living cultural beat. Wonder makes way for appreciation and respect as knowledge of thousands of generations is shared. A sense of involvement in the living world is indisputable as the interdependent interplay of life forms is uncovered, be it in the form of medicinal plant use or seasonal signifiers.   Traditions are revealed in the forms of weaponry, body painting and boomerang throwing and customs imparted in a dance workshop. Fragility is highlighted in the prevalence of koala disease and marine life depletion. Reconciliation is touched upon with reference to gaining recognition as traditional custodians. The ancient beat continues in spite of an ever-incarnating world, this time moving on to a new generation of youthful minds. Some contrast this rhythm with patterns back home, ruminating at times in sorrow, at times in celebration, more often in curiosity and ignorance.

This weekend field trip is one of many taking place all over Australia paving opportunities for our students to engage in realms contrasting to their everyday patterns. The elements are in the foreground as outdoor experiences become a hotbed for scholarship. We talk about the rhythms of the world during the orientation program, where bountiful theories fly within the confines of walls and windows. Here on the island is a chance to physically participate in and actualise a contrasting beat, if only for a snippet of life from Friday through Sunday, and if only to revert back to the familiar whirrs of normalcy upon that first step on mainland soil. Many say they are changed: they reflect, they deepen, they become. Many more are simply grateful for the opening.