Last week Souths Cares hosted a Leadership and Cultural Camp for 12 male participants engaged in the Liverpool Opportunity Hub, Nanga Mai Marri and Deadly Youth Mentoring Programs.

The camp was held at the Lake Conjola Ingenia Holiday Park, on beautiful Yuin-Monaro country. The theme for this Leadership and Cultural Camp was "Connect to Country" which was explored in workshops, group activities and individual discussions throughout the camp.

The boys arrived at Lake Conjola to ideal weather conditions, with their first task to establish their camp site before heading to Bendalong Beach. The group was warmly welcomed onto Yuin-Monaro country my local elder Uncle Poppy Mac and Uncle Bernie McLeod through a powerful and impactful Smoking Ceremony.

Following the Smoking Ceremony, the group took advantage of the pristine waters and enjoyed an ocean swim before hand-feeding the majestic stingrays which inhabit the local area.

Zac Vigar is a Nanga Mai Marri participant and explained feeding the stingrays was a highlight of his time on camp.

"My favourite part of the camp was feeding the stingrays at Bendalong Beach and having the opportunity to learn about these beautiful animals", Zac said.

After returning to camp the boys had some free time to explore the facilities at the Ingenia Holiday Park and then worked together as a team to prepare and cook a group dinner. The group had to navigate some less than ideal camping conditions with some heavy rain throughout the evening which proved to be challenging yet character building. Day one concluded with a group discussion on gratitude, resilience and the boys sharing their learnings from the day’s activities.

Yileen Gordon, Deadly Youth Mentor

After the rainy start the boys came together as one and really enjoyed the cultural guidance and practices of our deadly hosts Uncle Bernie McLeod and Uncle Poppy McLeod. Our boys have all taken home some memories and important cultural lessons and practices they will have for life.

Day two kicked off with a group breakfast, with the boys developing some valuable life-skills as they prepared breakfast and packed lunches before heading to Booderee National Park. The group spent some time learning about Booderee National Park and the cultural history and significance of the land and surrounding waters.

The group was joined by a local Policeman, who shared his experiences working in the unique Jervis Bay Territory and working collaboratively with Uncle Bernie in the local community. Poppy Mac then gave an inspiring talk about overcoming obstacles and adversity in the pursuit of a purposeful and meaningful life, which the boys embraced.

The next activity was a weapons and artefacts workshop, hosted by Uncle Bernie which included a collection of Aboriginal artefacts acquired from across Australia through trading with different communities. The boys were deeply engaged as they learnt about the traditional uses for artefacts and weapons and each item’s connection to different parts of Australia.

After lunch, the group travelled to the picturesque Murrays Beach where they enjoyed a game of beach footy and a swim in the ocean which provided great opportunities for the boys to build new connections and friendships.

In the evening the boys were rewarded for their commitment to the camp and getting out of their comfort zones with a group dinner at the local Club. After dinner the group watched a movie within the Holiday Park before heading off to bed for a well-earnt rest. On Day three, the boys cooked a big BBQ breakfast and then worked as a team to pack down the camp site. The older boys took on leadership roles as they worked through this task and assisted the younger boys disassemble and pack up their swags.

To conclude the camp, the group reflected on the challenges and highlights of the past few days and shared some strategies for ensuring the learnings on leadership, teamwork and culture would be used once the boys returned home.

The Boy’s Leadership and Cultural Camp was proudly supported by the NSW Government and Ingenia Holiday Parks.

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