July 26, 2012
Our last of three days in Wagga Wagga (known locally simply as Wagga). Wagga is the local indigenous word for crow. As keen observers of the land and environment, indigenous peoples aptly named the area. These crows are early risers, demonstrating their ability to work up a serious cacophony just around daybreak, which has been about 6:15am. Good Morning to you too, friend crow.
After a simple breakfast in our camper park alongside the Murrumbidgee River, we were fortunate to have two very interesting site visits in Wagga before we transferred to Sydney in the afternoon. Our first visit was with the Indigenous Student Services folks at Charles Sturt University. The day before, we observed the sustainable practices of a teaching winery at Charles Sturt, but today, we shifted our focus to social sustainability. Our hosts were Lloyd Dolan, Team Leader, and Shane Atkinson, a graduate student in secondary education and indigenous language. Mr. Atkinson studies Wiradjuri,one of the languages native to the Wagga area. Each shared some background of the work they do, which is to support all indigenous students through their college experience.
Like many non-dominant cultural groups, we were told that Aboriginal people have endured a mottled history of oppressions at the hands of European settlers. We learned that many Aboriginal students are not generally expected to succeed by teachers or dominant social groups in primary, secondary, or higher education. So the need for additional services is warranted and appreciated by indigenous students at Charles Sturt University.
We expected facts and figures, but we also were invited to learn a little of the language by Mr. Atkinson. As a language teacher to small children, he uses simple songs to help students learn. The importance of learning language is related to the language’s ability to transmit culture, belief systems, and value systems. We were given song sheets with Wiradjuri and English translations and we sang along to “Head, Shoulders, Knees, & Toes” and a song about welcoming each other at the beginning of the day. After nearly an hour of conversation, we were enriched, grateful, and enlightened, ever so slightly, for having learned a few new words and singing together.
We boarded the “Truely Tribal” bus for the last time, and Flick our tireless driver took us the last few kilometers to the Country Link Train station. We said a grateful goodbye as she headed back to Adelaide to some well deserved respite!
Thanks again, Flick, for all your leadership, energy, care and safe driving!
We checked our bags and then had a quick visit with a nearby recycling company called Orbitas. Orbitas is a Lead Acid Battery collector, working with an affiliated group, RMT (Recycled Metal Technologies) to safely and efficiently remove Lead Acid batteries and recycle them. Their plant recycles 98% of standard car batteries, including the plastic casing, the lead, and the sulphuric acid. They also recycle larger batteries (i.e. forklifts).
They are actively taking a role to lower the risk inherent in handling and
transporting Lead Acid batteries by being more organized and more efficient than their competitors. Our host, Shaun Rava, talked about working to change the culture of recycling by ensuring compliance with Australia’s EPA and other regulators. In terms of volume, this plant recycles 42,000 (metric) tons of
Lead Acid batteries per year, since 2010. There are several other plants like
this spread out around the country. As a business, this is an example of one
that does well by recycling in a socially responsible, ecologically sound, and
economically sustainable manner.
All this happened before lunch.
Then we grabbed a quick lunch at Subway (yep, just like in the States) and made sure we were on time for or 1:09pm train…which arrived at 3:25pm…and got us to Sydney right about 11pm. The travel time was used well, though, as students were busy working on their next assignments and catching up on rest. A late but safe arrival in Sydney Central Station and a short walk to our YHA accommodations ended the night.
Scavenger Hunt day! What better way to learn your way through a new city? By figuring out clues and making way past the notable landmarks. After breakfast, The instructors gave students instructions and clues (and emergency phone numbers) and a mission to explore the gardens, the monuments, museums, parks, and harbors of a vibrant harbor city. Off to the sandstone City Hall, reminding us that the builders used local sandstone to build this and other notable structures.
Quick, grab the bus, we went the wrong way (while seeing how public transport works in a city center). Hopefully, these activities remind us how we think about our own commutes, and more efficient or less energy intensive resource use. Followed up with a dinner of pizzas in “The Rocks” a historic district of Sydney at the foot of the Harbor Bridge, students definitely had put in many kilometers on their feet today. I think all the walking helped them earn a much
deserved free day tomorrow (Saturday).