Young Aboriginal men have learnt to live the life of soldiers, as part of a two-day camp at Robertson Barracks in the Northern Territory.
Laura Morelli

13 Oct 2016 - 6:43 PM  UPDATED 13 Oct 2016 - 6:44 PM

From speeding down obstacle courses to crawling under barbed wire during hot temperatures in army uniforms and even eating out of ration packs; Clontarf Foundation students endured the full force of being in the army but say learning bush survival skills will help them in the future.

This was the first time 15-year-old Kawan’s completed a program like this, and although it was challenging he said if he could do it all over again, he would.  

“We had to set up our tents, got given ration packs that only lasted us 24-hours and keep in mind - we were stuck in the middle of the bush!”

“There were heaps of obstacle courses and we had to crawl through tunnels, under barbed wire, and climb up jumping walls in 35 to 40 degree heat and we had to wear army suits which made it even hotter.”

After this firsthand experience Kawan now thinks this type of work would be something he’d consider in the future.

“We did a training drill where we were 100 yards out from our tent and there were glow sticks everywhere and we had to creep back to our tents without being seen… Some of us got pretty close but we all got caught in the end. Pretending to be out there, doing what they’d really do was mad.”

"Stuff the soldiers said was interesting and useful too... did you know that the sound at night is amplified three times more at night then at the day?”

Palmerston Clontarf Academy director Tavis Perry says this program provides an opportunity for students to learn more about a career in the army.

“We think any exposure we can give them particularly to employment pathways is fantastic. This is about having hands on experience with the defence force so boys have options later down the track,” Perry said.

Despite finding the program challenging, 16-year-old Michael says over the course of two days, he learnt how to work hard and push his limits.

“I will really take away the experience and skills they showed me, regardless if I become a soldier or not, for me I know not to give up or let my team mates down and I think that attitude is the best thing you can take home.” 

“When I was doing a speed run at the obstacle course it really got to me. It was non-stop, with only a few sips of water and seeing your teammates drop out on the side was difficult but I just kept pushing myself until the end."

Another key element of this program was about providing young males with positive role models which worked for Michael, who pushed himself to work hard so he could impress the ‘big boys’.

I looked up to the soldiers, they were pretty cool. They tell a lot of jokes, encourage you to try harder and motivate you,” he said.

Perry has lived and worked with Aboriginal people for over 7 years, he lived in the Galywinku community where he was able to connect with culture, learn traditional languages, be part of rituals and ceremonies and be “exposed to a new way of life.”

His aim is to mentor and encourage youth to get a feel for the future, encourage them to study or find something suitable for their talents.

“The boys look up to us like role models, we spend almost every single day with them, we provide meals for them and we do lots of after school activities, like training sessions and camps so we get to know them very well and build stronger relationships ,” he said.

“In the NT there was around a 5 year period in the 2000’s where there wasn’t a single Indigenous boy who was passing year 12. This year we have at least 90 boys finishing their education and the numbers continue to grow.”

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