Read answers to the questions that come up most often.
How do Elders feel about people coming onto their land? Will my group be intruding?
We are an organisation driven by our Indigenous partners in the homelands of remote Australia. Our mission is to give Indigenous people the help they need if they wish to welcome and open the hearts of young Australians to their country, culture and way of life. We only make our resources available if we’re asked to help. Traditional Owners are the ones that decide if people should come onto their land, not us.
Where and when can we go?
Red Earth organises Immersion Programs to the Cape York Peninsula, Central Australia and Arnhem Land. We can go to Central Australia all year round but can only take groups to Cape York and Arnhem land between April and October because of the wet season during summer months.
What is the pre-departure program like?
Red Earth takes its responsibility to ensure that each student gives, grows and leads very seriously. For each group, we design a pre-departure program tailored for the region the group is visiting, the students’ particular interests and the values of the school and teachers. We meet with the group at least three times before the departure date to ensure that students feel comfortable with the journey that awaits them. Moreover, students are given the opportunity to shape their own itinerary by choosing where they go and what they want to do when they get there.
What do I need to bring for the immersion itself?
Visit our What to Bring page.
How will we get there?
All transport will be arranged from a major airport to the community or homeland. Most communities do not have airports, so chartered 4WD buses with professional drivers will transport the group to the community. For some communities, especially in Cape York, the final section might involve a hike up into the mountains.
Who else will be there?
The school group should be accompanied by two teachers from the school and an Immersion Leader who will coordinate the project and the cultural activities with the local guides and Elders. The students will have met the Leader during the pre-departure sessions in the lead up to the immersion.
What about safety?
Because safety is our number one priority, we’ve devoted an entire section of our website to it.
But if you’re in a hurry: there will be a Red Earth Leader and teachers with the students at all times who have been briefed on the dangers of the particular area. All Immersion Leaders are professionally trained and certified in Remote First-Aid and 4WD off-road driving. A remote first-aid kit and satellite phones are kept with the group at all times. We also keep a 4WD vehicle near the group at all times. Most importantly, the Traditional Owners and Elders will be guiding the project and cultural activities. Every morning, a safety briefing will be held to remind people of the dangers of working on the project. Other safety equipment will be used as appropriate depending on the project. Most communities have medical centres with healthcare professionals on call 24/7 in case of emergencies. For life-threatening emergencies, a rescue helicopter or Royal Flying Doctor will take an injured party to the nearest major hospital.
How long is an immersion and when can we go?
The immersion itself is up to 11 days to allow time to finish the project and partake in the cultural activities. We accommodate groups according to the school’s calendar but are subject to the wet season, during which much of Cape York and Arnhem Land is cut off by the rains.
Where will we stay?
Accommodation is in large tents and students and teachers are provided with a comfortable stretcher. The camping sites are in safe areas away from the centre of towns.
What sort of amenities will there be, like showers and toilets?
We always sleep in areas that have at least drop toilets and showers.
What will we eat?
All food will be provided and cooked over gas-powered cooking equipment. Students will also have a chance to hunt and gather their own bush tucker. If they’re successful, they may do this for as many meals as there is food. Providing meals at a regular time is the ultimate responsibility of the Immersion Leader but, as part of the leadership component of our approach, students are expected to actively do their part.
What else will we do?
When not working on the project, the students will get to experience traditional Aboriginal culture through the stories and Dreaming places of the elders. Elders and traditional owners love teaching the young people about their culture – about its rich connection to the land and ongoing relevance to Aboriginal life. They want the leaders of tomorrow to experience Aboriginal culture and to know how important it is to their identity as Indigenous people. The Elders will share their culture with the students by visiting sacred places, telling old stories and welcoming them to the country with a traditional ceremony. The students might also read to younger students at the local primary school and organise sporting games with them. There will also be free time to allow the students to unwind with a football, Frisbee or a game of cards.
Will we need any extra spending money?
Students should bring no more than $100 for any food they may want to buy in transit. All expenses from when you arrive in the region until when you depart will be covered. For security reasons, it is advisable that students bring as little money as possible.
Will we need vaccinations before the trip?
Generally, no vaccinations or inoculations are required, but students should consult a medical professional for advice if they are concerned about mosquito-borne diseases. Students will be sleeping in tents and mosquito repellent will be provided.
How fit will students have to be?
Students will be hiking to cultural sites and working on building projects, so will require a moderate degree of fitness. For the sake of the whole group, students will need to be enthusiastic about actively participating in these activities. In the past, we have not found fitness to be a constraint on active participation.
What role will teachers have on the trip?
Red Earth Immersion Leaders are on the trip, responsible for the logistics, safety and success of the trip. Teachers do not have to know anything about the area or have any experience with Aboriginal Australia. Of course, as with students, teachers will have to do their part to ensure that the trip is a success. Activities may include cooking, cleaning, fetching water, and supervising students. Teachers will also have a special role as mentors and representatives of the school, and we encourage teachers to actively engage with the students about what the Immersion means. Teachers will also have ultimate responsibility for disciplining students, if that is required.
Our students don’t have building experience, is this a problem?
All building projects are designed and supervised by people with appropriate building experience, including Elders, local building supervisors and leaders. This means that students do not have to have any building experience, only a positive and enthusiastic attitude.
What is the cancellation policy?
Under certain circumstances, your school may have insurance and will refund parents should a student be unable to attend the immersion. If you cancel for any reason not covered by the school’s policy, the following policy will apply:
- Cancelling between the due dates for the Deposit and the Second payment, will result in a loss of your deposit.
- Cancelling between the due dates for the second payment and the Balance will result in a loss of your Deposit and 50% of the Second Payment.
- Cancelling after the due date for the Balance will result in a loss of the Deposit and 75% of the Second Payment and Balance.